Lead economist: Construction employment rises 4 percent year over year

Source: Associated Builders & Contractors, Washington, D.C.

An Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates construction employment increased 280,000 in 2018, a 4.0 percent gain over the prior-year level. The analysis also showed industry unemployment rising to 5.1 percent during December, due to a meaningful increase in labor force participation, yet remained 0.8 percent lower than at the same time in 2017.  

“For several reasons, such as market volatility, a sense of deep concern has set in recently among many economic stakeholders,” says ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “There has also been some evidence of economic slowing, including in America’s manufacturing sector. But [the BLS] employment release reminds us that the U.S. economy continues to expand and that many businesses, including construction firms, remain in growth mode.

“What’s more, a stronger labor market continues to translate into solid wage gains for households. That will help keep the consumer portion of the economy strong, even as slower global economic growth creates more challenges for certain types of businesses. While overall U.S. economic growth is likely to slow in 2019, the economy appears poised to generate enough growth to keep the average contractor busy and to keep backlog relatively stable.”

Job growth is apparent in both publicly and privately financed nonresidential work, he adds, concluding: “Construction spending has been strong in categories ranging from office and lodging to transportation and public safety, and [BLS] data suggest that firms operating in these and other segments will continue to bulk up on staffing. In the final analysis, [the 2018] employment numbers were impressive and should suppress most discussion regarding the imminence of a broad economic downturn.”