AGC Cites Weather for February Employment Drop


Construction employment numbers in February fell by about 61,000, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors America of new government data released late last week.

The AGC cites severe weather as the primary driver, as well as continued weakness in new nonresidential projects.

“The steep decline in construction employment in February continues a downward trend in nonresidential activity that began before the disruptions caused by last month’s freezes and power losses,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Despite recovery in some parts of the economy, private nonresidential construction is still experiencing many canceled and postponed projects and few new starts.”

The slump was reportedly the first overall decline since April 2020. Other details include:

  • nonresidential construction had a decline of 60,800 jobs in February, following a dip of 400 jobs in January;
  • the February 2021 total was 316,000 jobs or 6.8% less than a year earlier;
  • only half the jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic had been regained by February;
  • in the latest month, nonresidential building contractors shed 3,300 jobs;
  • nonresidential specialty trade contractors lost 5,500 workers;
  • heavy and civil engineering construction firms—the category most likely to be affected by winter storms—lost 20,800 employees; and
  • even residential construction employment inched down by 200 jobs in February.

The AGC urged members of Congress to work with President Joe Biden to quickly pass needed infrastructure investments. It also asked for steps to be taken to address the rising costs of construction materials with the easing of tariffs. Lastly, the AGC is urging Congress to drop plans to impose the PRO Act.

“Washington officials can’t change the weather, but they can help boost demand for infrastructure, address spiking steel and lumber prices and avoid anti-recovery measures like the PRO Act,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s CEO. “Stripping workers of their privacy and denying them the absolute right to secret ballot elections, as the PRO Act does, won’t boost demand for construction or put more people to work.”

Recent Numbers

The most recent previously released numbers were revealed last week as both the AGC and the Associated Builders and Contractors analyzed private nonresidential building in January, which at the time posted a rare increase since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to ABC’s analysis of data published by the U.S. Census Bureau, nonresidential construction spending increased .9% on a monthly basis in January and totaled $799.1 billion for the month.

Spending was up on a monthly basis in nine of the 16 nonresidential subcategories, the ABC added, with private nonresidential spending increasing 0.4% in January, while public nonresidential construction spending increased 1.6%. Only four nonresidential construction categories have experienced growth in spending on a year-over-year basis (all of which are primarily publicly financed segments).

The AGC looked at the numbers from the construction sector as a whole, adding that January totaled $1.52 trillion, an increase of 1.7% from December and 5.8% higher than January 2020. Residential construction jumped 2.5% for the month and 21% year-over-year.

Segment breakdowns in the data include:

  • Power construction, fell 10% year-over-year and .8% from December to January;
  • Commercial construction—comprising retail, warehouse and farm structures—slumped 8.3% year-over-year and 1.8% for the month;
  • Office construction decreased 4.4% year-over-year and .2%in January;
  • Manufacturing construction tumbled 14.7% from a year earlier despite a 4.9% pickup in January;
  • Highway and street construction rose 6.5% from a year earlier and 5.8% for the month;
  • Educational construction increased .9% year-over-year but dipped .1% in January;
  • Spending on transportation facilities declined 0.6% for the year and 1.0% in January;
  • Private residential construction spending increased for the eighth-straight month, jumping 21% year-over-year percent and 2.5% in January;
  • Single-family homebuilding leaped 24.2% compared to January 2020 and 3.0% for the month; and
  • Multifamily construction spending climbed 16.9% for the year and .7% for the month.

Tagged categories: Associated General Contractors (AGC); COVID-19; Economy; Good Technical Practice; Jobs; NA; North America

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