Spending in glass-laden construction segments slowed in July, but that didn’t stop contractors from hiring in August, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.
The Census Bureau reported nonresidential construction spending fell 1.7 percent in July, totaling $688.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis. Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) notes in its analysis that the “absolute level of nonresidential construction spending was at its lowest point since December 2015.”
This was due in part to monthly dips of 1.3 and 4.6 percent in the office and commercial sectors, respectively. Other sectors that use lots of glass, such as educational, healthcare and lodging, fell by 4.3, 2.1 and 2.7 percent, respectively.
Still, a report released on the same day showed construction employment increased by 28,000 jobs in August, or .4 percent, helped by upticks in the nonresidential specialty trade and nonresidential building sectors. Both of these categories include contract glaziers and iron workers.
Associated General Contractors of America chief economist Ken Simonson said in his analysis that construction firms have added employees in the past year “at nearly twice the rate of employers throughout the economy, but more than two-thirds of contractors report difficulty finding craft workers as the number of unemployed, experienced construction workers hit a 17-year low in August.” He added, “Although construction spending has fluctuated recently, many contractors are still looking for qualified craft workers and project managers.”
ABC chief economist Anirban Basu said in looking at the broader picture, the U.S. labor market remains strong and construction activity is robust, particularly in certain private segments. “This helps explain the 44,800 net new positions added by nonresidential specialty trade contractors during the past year,” he said. “… Based on consideration of other factors, including leading indicators, the narrative suggesting that construction activity continues to rise seems more reasonable.
“Anecdotally and in survey data, many nonresidential construction firms continue to report healthy backlog and are looking forward to an active 2018.”