The month's total construction employment of 6.918 million represented a 214,000-position — or 3.2% — increase from August 2016, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors.
Within the industry, the nonresidential sector (including heavy civil and engineering) fueled August's employment growth, adding 10,400 positions. Residential builders added 1,500 jobs during the period, while specialty trade contractors across the residential and nonresidential sectors added 15,400 new positions last month.
August's numbers fall in line with data pointing to strength in the U.S. labor market overall. The month's jobs report marks the best month for employment gains in construction since February, the Associated Builders and Contractors reported. That trend is likely to continue, according to the organization, with ongoing demand for design services and a strong and stabilizing construction backlog.
Meanwhile, construction spending is leveling off, with the figures edging down 0.6% from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.212 trillion in July — up 1.8% from the year before. The decrease in spending comes as contractors scramble to find enough skilled workers to fill their payrolls. A survey from the Associated General Contractors released this week found that seven in 10 contractors are having trouble finding skilled labor.
Residential builders are also grappling with a pressing shortage of buildable lots. Builder confidence in the market for single-family construction bounced back in August on the strength of job and economic growth as well as competitive mortgage rates. And while that turn marked the first month of improvement in outlook since May, a deceleration in job growth and rising material prices will likely challenge builders' ability to meet demand in the long-term.
The nonresidential sector could still see a lift in activity if the Trump administration moves ahead with its $1 trillion infrastructure plan, but any mobilization on project work as a result of that program is likely a few years away.