Construction employers added 29,000 jobs in February and 321,000 over the past year, reaching the highest employment total in six years, as the sector’s unemployment rate fell to an eight-year low of 10.6 percent, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). AGC officials cautioned, however, that construction jobs in the highway and transit sector were at risk because of Washington gridlock.
“Despite challenging weather conditions in much of the country, both the number of workers and their average weekly hours rose last month to the highest levels since the recession,” says Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist. “There are lots of good-paying, full-time jobs available in construction, with more work on the way.”
Construction employment totaled 6,353,000 in February, the highest mark since February 2009, with a 12-month gain of 321,000 jobs or 5.3 percent, Simonson noted. Average weekly hours of all employees climbed to 39.6 hours and weekly earnings averaged $1066 in construction, the highest levels in the nine-year history of both series, according to AGC. Weekly earnings in construction were 24 percent above the private-sector average.
Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined 16,700 employees since January and 167,800 (7.4 percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential contractors—building, specialty trade, and heavy and civil engineering construction firms—hired a net of 12,000 workers for the month and 153,400 (4.1 percent) since February 2014, according to the report.
“Contractors in most states appear optimistic about the prospects for construction, especially for apartments and private nonresidential projects,” Simonson adds.