Steel Markets

AGC: Construction Adds 20,000 Jobs in July, Primarily in Housing

Written by Sandy Williams

The construction industry reported 20,000 new jobs in July, but almost all were in new housing construction, says the Associated General Contractors of America.

“It is gratifying that the construction industry continued to add jobs in July, but last month’s gains were entirely in residential building and specialty trades,” said AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson. “It is likely that many nonresidential jobs are in jeopardy following the completion of emergency projects and ones begun before the pandemic. Projects that had been scheduled to start this summer or later are being canceled by both public agencies and private owners, while few new facilities are breaking ground.”

The employment pickup in July follow gains of 163,000 jobs in June and 456,000 in May, but construction employment still remains 5.6 percent below the peak in February, noted Simonson.

Residential building and specialty trade construction firms—firms that concentrate on residential new construction, additions and renovations—accounted for 24,000 additional jobs in July, said AGC. In contrast, employment among nonresidential segments declined by 4,000 jobs.

Heavy and civil engineering construction (i.e., highways and infrastructure) was 7.4 percent below the February employment total. Nonresidential building and specialty trade construction firms were 6.8 percent below February. Employment at residential building and specialty trade construction firms combined slipped by a more modest 4.1 percent, said AGC.

The construction industry unemployment rate in July was 8.9 percent, with 870,000 former construction workers idled. These figures were more than double the July 2019 levels and were the highest July totals since 2013 and 2012, respectively.

“It is vital for officials of both parties, both sides of Capitol Hill, and the administration to come to agreement promptly on meaningful increases in infrastructure funding and other recovery measures,” said AGC CEO Stephen E. Sandherr. “Without quick action, the nonresidential job losses that began in July will quickly worsen and the nation will lose a golden opportunity to start on improving infrastructure at a time of high labor availability and low materials and borrowing costs.”

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