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Construction Adds 30,000 Jobs in Oct., Jobless Rate Falls

Economic

From Engineering News-Record

Construction posted strong employment numbers in October, adding 30,000 jobs and recording a decline in its unemployment rate, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.

The latest BLS monthly employment report, released on Nov. 2, shows that construction’s October jobless rate dropped to 3.6% from September’s 4.1%. October’s level also improved from the year-earlier 4.5%.

BLS unemployment rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.

With construction’s October jobs gain, the industry’s workforce is up by 330,000, or 4.7%, to more than 7.3 million, in the 12 months ended Oct. 31, according to BLS’s preliminary estimate.

Construction’s October jobs increases were led by the specialty trade contractors sector, which added 21,300 positions during the month.

The heavy and civil engineering construction category saw its workforce expand by 7,100.

Nonresidential building was the only segment to lose jobs in October, recording a decrease of 1,100.

Architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS industry category, gained 6,900 jobs last month.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, pointed to the pickup in the heavy-civil sector as a sign of strength in government infrastructure markets.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America’s chief economist, said that the industry’s jobs increases “remain strong and well balanced between residential and nonresidential construction.”

But the economists also pointed to a continued upturn in the industry’s wages. Simonson said, “Contractors are raising pay faster than at any time since the recession to attract workers from other industries as well as new entrants, yet many firms report they continue to have difficulty filling positions.”

AGC noted that construction’s average earnings rose 3.9% in October to $30.21, the largest monthly increase since June 2009.

Basu said the construction wage trend is “a potential cause for concern,” observing that higher pay and other inflation signals can lead to higher interest rates, costlier borrowing for projects and fewer starts. Still, he says that “for now, it is all systems go for the U.S. nonresidential construction industry.”

In all, the U.S. economy added a total of 250,000 jobs in October, BLS reported.

The overall unemployment rate remained at 3.7%, the same as September’s, but improved from October 2017’s 4.1% rate.

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