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Construction Slows Bleeding of Jobs

Monday, May 9, 2011

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The good news: After years of bloodletting, construction unemployment numbers have remained stable for about a year. The bad news: Industry joblessness remains stuck at brutally high levels.

The industry added 5,000 jobs in April, which slightly reduced its unemployment rate to 17.8 percent, according to an Associated General Contractors of America analysis of new federal employment data.

However, that number is still nearly twice the national unemployment rate.

The figures continue a year of stagnation in construction employment after years of steep declines—a situation that is unlikely to change soon, association officials said.

No Rebound Seen

“The construction industry may have stopped bleeding jobs, but there is no sign that employment levels are set to bounce back,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

“With declines in public sector investments likely to offset increases in some private sector construction activity, we are unlikely to see significant increases in construction employment for the foreseeable future.”

Nonresidential construction is faring better than residential, as the former gained 10,000 jobs in April, while the residential sector lost 5,400 jobs.

Heavy, Civil Engineering Construction Gain

The largest gains came from heavy and civil engineering construction, likely reflecting construction starts on a number of stimulus and other publicly funded projects that halted during the winter, AGC said.

 Stephen E. Sandherr
Deferred infrastructure maintenance is taking a toll on jobs, says Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors

Meanwhile, employment declined in both nonresidential specialty trade contractors and nonresidential building, possibly reflecting weak demand for office, retail and school construction.

Neglect and Prosperity

Construction employment levels are likely to remain relatively stuck through much of 2011 as federal, state and local governments cut investments in infrastructure and other construction projects. Growth in multifamily, manufacturing and power construction should help offset the public sector declines but might not be enough to lead to significant increases in construction employment.

“Construction will keep suffering double-digit unemployment rates as long as federal officials continue to cut infrastructure maintenance and upkeep instead of addressing out-of-control entitlement spending,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

“The lesson here is you can’t neglect your way to greater economic prosperity.”

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Economy; Labor; Workers

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