Construction Employment, Private Spending Surges as Public Investment Shrinks

The construction industry added 22,000 jobs in July but suffered a pullback in spending in June, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Construction employment totaled 6,041,000 in July, the highest total since May 2009, while the industry’s unemployment rate of 7.5 percent was the lowest July number in seven years. The sector’s employment rose by 211,000, or 3.6 percent, from a year earlier.

Residential construction employers added 13,000 jobs in July and 115,600 (5.3 percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential construction employment increased by 9,100 for the month and 95,700 (2.6 percent) since July 2013.

“Construction employment and spending are both rising at a moderate year-over-year clip, but there have been some setbacks,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “While prospects for private construction remain largely favorable, inadequate public investment still threatens to keep too many workers idle.

“… For the first half of 2014, private spending climbed at double-digit rates, while public construction shrank. I expect both patterns to continue.”

Construction spending in June totaled $950 billion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, down 1.8 percent from the upwardly revised May total, Simonson notes. Spending for the first half of 2014 as a whole increased 7.8 percent from the same period in 2013.

Private nonresidential spending fell 1.6 percent in June but increased 12.6 percent year-to-date, while private residential spending slipped 0.3 percent for the month but rose 10.3 percent year-to-date. Public construction spending slumped 4.0 percent from May to June and 0.9 percent year-to-date.

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