Construction employment declined by 1,000 in March but is still up by 282,000 compared to March 2014, as the sector’s unemployment rate fell to 9.5%, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that declining demand for residential and public sector projects offset gains in other areas to contribute to the overall month job losses.
“After 14 months of steady job gains, construction employment suffered in March,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC. “Except for multifamily construction, home building remains weak and government officials just can’t seem to find a way to pay for needed repairs to a host of aging facilities.”
Housing/Commercial Construction Shortfall
Construction employment totaled 6.34 million in March, compared to 6.345 million in February and 6.06 million in March 2014, the AGC reported of its analysis of US Census Bureau data. Residential building and specialty trade contractors lost 2,800 jobs (-0.1%) since February but added 136,300 jobs (6%) over 12 months. Results were split in the homes sector, with residential building contractors adding 3,700 jobs for the month while residential specialty trade contractors lost 6,500 jobs compared to February.
Nonresidential contractors—building, specialty trade, and heavy and civil engineering construction firms—hired a net of 1,100 workers for the month and 145,000 (3.8%) since March 2014. As with the residential sector, the nonresidential employment sector varied by segment. The nonresidential and specialty trade contractors and nonresidential building contractors added a combined 5,000 jobs for the month, but heavy and civil engineering contractors—who typically perform public sector projects such as highway construction—lost 3,900 jobs since February.
The employment figures are consistent with February federal spending data released earlier this month that showed declining investments in residential and public sector construction projects offsetting growing demand for private, nonresidential construction. Simonson noted that the industry’s recovery would continue to suffer if public sector investments continue to decline and the residential market remains weak.
“The threat of funding cuts for needed public infrastructure will continue to impact firms’ ability to add more employees to the payroll,” Simonson said.