Construction sector's addition of 45K jobs in Dec. a 'positive sign' for economy

Dive Brief:

  • The construction sector added 45,000 jobs in December, and the industry unemployment level increased 1.3 percentage points, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Associated Builders and Contractors reported Friday.
  • In December, construction employment was at 6,538,000 — the highest number since January 2009. The December figure also represents a 263,000-job increase from December 2014 — a 4.2% gain, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
  • Within the industry, employment in the nonresidential segment rose by 21,100 jobs, or 3.2%, in December, and the residential segment increased by 23,100 jobs, or 5.7%, according to the AGC.

Dive Insight:

The construction industry saw a major bump in employment at the end of 2015. December's major gains followed a 46,000-job addition in November and a 31,000-job increase in October

Although unemployment slightly grew last month, ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu noted the increase might be a welcome reprieve for an industry strapped by a tight labor supply. "While rising unemployment is not generally viewed as a good thing, it could signal relief in an industry where contractors have fretted for years about a lack of qualified craftspeople to do the work," he said in a release.

Despite the positive December construction employment results, industry employers are slightly less optimistic this year than at the start of 2015 about their hiring prospects. In an AGC survey released this week, 71% of respondents said they plan to increase their headcounts in 2016, down from 80% in November. The dip this year is due largely to the labor shortage, increased competition, additional government regulations, and higher healthcare costs, according to the AGC.

However, industry analysts still welcomed the employment news Friday. "Given the mounting level of concern regarding the U.S. economic outlook in the face of emerging global deflationary forces and unstable geopolitics, today’s employment report is a positive sign," Basu said.

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