AGC: Construction headcount continues climb from lofty base

Sources: Associated General Contractors of America, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

Construction employment increased by 52,000 in January and 338,000, or 4.7 percent, over the past year, while the latest reading on project spending showed moderate increases in all major public and private categories, according to an AGC analysis of federal government data. 

Construction employment totaled 7,464,000 last month, the most since January 2008. A report on construction spending showed an increase of 0.8 percent from October to November and 4.5 percent year-to-date for the first 11 months of 2018 combined compared to the same period in 2017. Year-to-date spending rose by 3.9 percent for residential construction, 3.5 percent for private nonresidential construction, and 7.0 percent for public construction.

"There has been no letup in demand for construction projects—or workers," says Chief Economist Ken Simonson. "Even though the industry added employees at more than double the pace of the overall economy in the past year, the average workweek in construction reached an all-time high and unemployment in construction hit a series low, indicating that contractors would hire even more workers if they were available."

Among other highlights of AGC’s analysis, he adds: Average weekly hours in the industry increased to 39.9 hours in January, the highest since the series began in 2006; average weekly hours of production and nonsupervisory employees, a series that dates back to 1947 and covers construction trades, set a record of 40.6 hours; and, the unemployment rate for jobseekers with construction experience in January was 6.4 percent, down from 7.3 percent the prior year.