The construction industry lost 3,000 jobs in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. December's total construction employment of 6,699,000 still represented a 102,000-job — 1.5% — increase from December 2015, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
Within the industry, the residential sector added 9,800 positions last month, while the nonresidential sector (including heavy civil and engineering) lost 13,400 jobs.
- Average hourly earnings in construction bumped up 3.0% between December 2015 and December 2016 to $28.42. Recent wage growth for construction workers has accelerated to its fastest pace since 2009, according to the AGC.
The lackluster jobs report for the construction industry came as somewhat of a surprise to experts, as strong spending numbers last month indicated building activity had picked up at the end of 2016. Earlier this month, the U.S. Commerce Department announced construction spending rose 0.9% in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.182 trillion, reaching its highest level since April 2006.
However, that increase in new projects came amid the ongoing labor shortage in the construction industry. Companies might have plenty of work, but they are struggling to find qualified workers to complete those jobs. With Dodge Data & Analytics predicting a 5% increase in the value of construction starts this year, the industry doesn't expect a slowdown in activity to come anytime soon.
"Although a dip in employment might normally be a sign of declining demand, in this case the industry is raising wages and taking other steps to attract and retain workers," AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson said in a release.
Industry groups have consistently warned that construction needs to develop a plan to build up the worker pipeline, with some suggesting marketing efforts, a greater focus on technical training in school, immigration reform and a broad coalition effort.