Steel Products

Construction Employment and Wages Climb in January

Written by Sandy Williams

Construction employment and average hourly wages climbed in January, according to an analysis of government data by the Associated General Contractors of America. The industry gained 36,000 jobs in January for total construction employment of 7,099,000. Compared to January 2016, jobs were up 226,000 or 3.3 percent.

Average hourly earnings in the industry climbed to $29.33, a rise of 2.9 percent from a year earlier and nearly 10 percent more per hour than the average nonfarm private-sector job in the United States.

“The construction industry has consistently added workers at nearly double the rate of the overall economy,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The outlook remains positive for further growth in the industry. But finding workers to complete all projects will be a challenge with unemployment so low overall and in construction.”

The association noted that the $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment proposed in Washington would help the sector add jobs and attract new workers.

“Bringing our aging infrastructure back to a state of good repair will support short-term economic growth while making our economy more efficient and competitive over the long-term,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “These new investments will also send a clear signal to new workers to consider careers in construction and the middle-class life those jobs support.”

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Residential construction—comprising residential building and specialty trade contractors—added 19,000 jobs in January and 88,400 jobs, or 3.3 percent, over the past 12 months. Nonresidential construction (building, specialty trades, and heavy and civil engineering construction) employment increased by 16,400 jobs in January and 137,200 positions, or 3.3 percent, over 12 months.

The number of unemployed jobseekers with recent construction experience fell to 707,000 in January, down from 859,000 in January 2017, while the unemployment rate in construction dropped to 7.3 percent last month from 9.4 percent a year earlier. The number and rate were the lowest for January since the series began in 2000. Unemployment data by industry are not seasonally adjusted, and winter figures for construction are normally higher than they are for total nonfarm employment, but these declines show how difficult it has become for the industry to find experienced workers, said Simonson.

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