Homebuilding Sector Drives Construction Employment Surge

Residential construction led the way to another positive month for construction employment.

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According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry added 16,000 new jobs in August 2020. Residential construction employment added 25,000 new jobs, counteracting a 16,000 job decline in nonresidential specialty trade contractors.

“Construction is becoming a tale of two sectors, as homebuilding and limited nonresidential niches thrive but most other private, as well as public, construction shrinks,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

“These employment numbers are in line with our survey, which found a plurality of construction firms expect it will take more than six months before their volume of business matches year-ago levels.”

Historically high levels of demand for housing this past summer boosted the home building industry and created a bright spot in the construction industry overall. It’s been a busy season for residential construction. That the industry continues to add jobs even in late summer is a positive sign that these levels of activity are likely to continue.

“[This] report indicates that America’s nascent economic recovery remains fully in place,” said Anirban Basu, chief economist for the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). “The big news was that the nation’s rate of unemployment declined to 8.4 percent, even as more people reentered the job market, which was due in part to a cessation of a sizable federal supplement to state unemployment insurance benefits.”

Construction employment in August remained 425,000 jobs lower than its most recent peak last February. The overall industry unemployment rate sat at 7.6 percent, more than double what it was at the same time last year.

“There is a lot that Washington officials can do to help boost demand for construction projects and get more people back to work rebuilding the economy,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the AGC. “The challenge is that the coronavirus has put many contractors in the position of looking for work and workers at the same time.”

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