Construction industry employment hit a new five-year high in November as the sector added 20,000 jobs and its unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent, the lowest rate for November in seven years, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials cautioned, however, that the latest figures include signs that demand for public-sector and nonresidential construction may be weakening.
“November was another good month overall for construction workers and businesses,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Yet the recent declines in public works and nonresidential building construction employment may indicate some underlying weakness in the construction market.”
Construction employment totaled 6.1 million in November, the highest total since April 2009, with a 12-month gain of 213,000 jobs, or 3.6 percent, Simonson noted. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined 16,700 employees since October and 122,800 (5.6 percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential contractors hired a net of 3,600 workers for the month and 90,100 (2.4 percent) since November 2013. However, the heavy and civil engineering construction segment, which includes most forms of public works construction, lost 1,300 jobs in November, while nonresidential building construction lost 2,400 jobs.
The number of workers who said they looked for work in the past month and had last worked in construction fell to 629,000 in November. That was lower than in any November since 2006, when many nonresidential contractors were forced to delay projects because they couldn’t find qualified workers.