Construction Employment Unchanged in April, Says ABC

Construction industry employment remained unchanged in April, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the last year, the industry has added 917,000 jobs, recovering 82.4% of the jobs lost during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nonresidential construction lost 2,900 jobs in April, driven entirely by losses among nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-11,800). This decline was offset by gains in heavy and civil engineering (+6,300) and nonresidential building (+2,600).

The construction unemployment rate fell from 8.6% in March to 7.7% in April. Unemployment across all industries inched a tenth of a percentage point higher to 6.1%.

“While many observers are shocked by today’s disappointing employment report, contractors and other employers have been signaling for weeks that all is not right in America’s labor market,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “In particular, a growing chorus of employers indicates difficulty filling available job openings. Demand for human capital is elevated in many industries, but a combination of stimulus payments, stepped up unemployment insurance benefits, lingering fear of infection and remote schooling is slowing growth in labor force participation.

“There are problematic supply side factors as well,” said Basu. “Input shortages ranging from softwood lumber and steel to copper and semiconductors have pushed materials costs higher while simultaneously slowing down the ramping of production. Not coincidentally, despite elevated demand for vehicles, employment in the motor vehicles and parts manufacturing segment declined 27,000 in April.

“Based on ABC’s Construction Confidence Index, the typical contractor expects sales, staffing and margins to expand over the next six months,” said Basu. “As vaccination rates increase and infection rates turn lower, accumulated household savings combined with more effective supply chains should translate into improving economic performance. That in turn will help lift demand for construction services later this year and into 2022.”

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