Construction employers added 17,000 jobs in November as the sector’s employment hit the highest level since August 2009. The construction-industry unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that the new employment figures come as construction spending levels hit a four-year high in October.
Construction employment totaled 5,851,000 in November, an increase of 178,000 3.1 percent over 12 months. Construction employment remains nearly 1.9 million below the sector’s April 2006 peak, but the unemployment rate for workers that were last employed in construction and who are actively looking for jobs declined from 12.2 percent in November 2012 to 8.6 percent last month.
Nonresidential construction firms added 7,900 new jobs in November and residential firms added 8,400 jobs. While every segment of the construction industry added jobs in November, heavy and civil engineering firms – which are most likely to perform federal construction work – added fewest; only 200 jobs. Meanwhile residential specialty trade contractors added the most new jobs during the past month; 7,100.
“While these new employment figures are very encouraging, growth remains uneven by segment, region and time period,” said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. “There are likely to be continuing variations in growth between homebuilding, private nonresidential and public sector.”
The number of unemployed construction workers dropped from 988,000 in November 2012 to 706,000 in November 2013, a decline of 282,000. With the industry adding only 178,000 new jobs during the timeframe, many unemployed construction workers appear to be leaving the sector’s workforce, Simonson noted. He added that the shrinking pool of available workers may be one reason so many contractors report having a hard time finding qualified workers.
As the sector expands, more firms are likely to struggle to find qualified workers amid declining investments in secondary career and technical education programs.