Construction Industry Adds 30,000 Jobs in December

The U.S. construction industry gained 30,000 jobs in December despite an overall increase in the industry unemployment rate, according to the January 4 employment report by the U.S. Labor Department.

According to an analysis from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), this is the fastest pace of construction employment growth since February 2011.

Year over year, construction employment has risen by 18,000 jobs, or 0.3 percent. The construction unemployment rate for December was 13.5 percent (not seasonally adjusted)—up from 12.2 percent from November, but down from 16 percent the same time last year, according to ABC.

The nonresidential building construction sector added 7,000 jobs in December for a total of 12,200 jobs (1.9 percent) added during 2012. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors gained 5,600 jobs for the month, but have lost 25,000 jobs (1.2 percent) compared to one year ago.

The residential building sector added 5,800 jobs in December, but lost 6,600 jobs (1.2 percent) during the past 12 months. Residential specialty trade contractors added 12,300 jobs in December and have added 36,400 jobs (2.5 percent) since December 2011.

The heavy and civil engineering construction sector lost 700 jobs for the month, but has added 400 jobs during the course of the past year.

“It is tempting to believe the December 2012 employment report bodes well for the nation’s construction industry,” says ABC chief economist Anirban Basu. “Employment growth was widespread, impacting general and specialty trade contractors alike—the largest monthly increase in construction employment in nearly two years.

“However, industry stakeholders will need to wait at least another month for some clarity regarding construction employment patterns,” adds Basu. “The increase in the construction industry unemployment rate can be attributed to the slowdown in construction activity during the winter months.

“It is conceivable that a significant share of the growth in construction employment in December came in reaction to Hurricane Sandy and the commencement of rebuilding in New York, New Jersey and other affected communities,” Basu says. “The ongoing rebuilding effort impacted both nonresidential and residential construction activities.

“Not coincidentally, residential and nonresidential segments jointly contributed to overall construction industry employment expansion in December,” continues Basu. “With additional relief monies expected to pour into communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, further rebuilding-related construction employment growth is expected.”

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