Steel Markets

Construction Unemployment Soars 9.6% in February

Written by Sandy Williams

Severe weather froze the construction industry in February, contributing to an employment loss of 61,000 workers, said the Associated General Contractors of America in an analysis of government data. The sector’s unemployment rate soared 9.6% last month. Total construction employment was 7,340,000, a 4.0% drop from the most recent peak in February 2020.

“The steep decline in construction employment in February continues a downward trend in nonresidential activity that began before the disruptions caused by last month’s freezes and power losses,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Despite recovery in some parts of the economy, private nonresidential construction is still experiencing many canceled and postponed projects and few new starts.”

Nonresidential construction lost 60,800 jobs in February for a total of 316,000 jobs. February’s total was 6.8 percent below February 2020’s rate. “In the latest month, nonresidential building contractors shed 3,300 jobs and nonresidential specialty trade contractors lost 5,500 workers, while heavy and civil engineering construction firms—the category most likely to be affected by winter storms—lost 20,800 employees,” reported AGC.

Residential construction employment remained slightly higher than a year ago, losing just 200 jobs in February.

In the past 12 months, construction unemployment soared to 921,000 workers, up from 531,000 a year ago and the highest February total since 2014.

AGC continues to urge Congress to pass a new infrastructure bill and asks that the Biden administration intervene in soaring construction prices for lumber and steel by easing tariffs and boosting domestic production.

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