US construction unemployment rate drops to 5.2 percent

Friday, 05 April 2019 22:43:59 (GMT+3)   |   San Diego

US construction employment increased by 16,000 jobs in March and by 246,000 jobs, or 3.4 percent, over the past year, according to an analysis of new government data today by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Construction employment totaled 7,447,000 in March, an increase of 246,000, or 3.4 percent, since March 2018. The growth rate was double the 1.7 percent gain in total nonfarm payroll employment, the economist noted. Average hourly earnings in construction – a measure of all wages and salaries – increased 3.3 percent over the year to $30.45. That figure was nearly 10 percent higher than the private-sector average of $27.70.

All construction industry employees averaged 39.9 hours of work per week in March, the highest March rate in the 14-year history of the series. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed jobseekers whose last job was in construction totaled 490,000 in March, a steep decline from the 696,000 such workers in March 2018 and the lowest March total since the series began in 2000. The unemployment rate for those jobseekers amounted to just 5.2 percent, down sharply from the 7.4 percent rate a year earlier. The economist said the lack of experienced workers to hire results in longer-than-usual hours for short-handed construction crews.

In a survey the association released in January, more contractors reported they expect the dollar volume of projects available to bid on to expand than to shrink in 2019 in each of 13 project categories. In addition, 79 percent of respondents reported that they expect to add employees in 2019. However, nearly as many—78 percent—reported they were having trouble filling some positions and 68 percent said they expected that hiring would remain difficult or become harder.

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