Jobs Table 6 3 22

BLS: Construction Employment, Wages Grew in May

June 6, 2022
Industry hiring surged again, but worker shortages appear to be hindering growth, caution AGC, ABC economists.


WASHINGTON DCJune 3, 2022 — The U.S. construction industry added 36,000 jobs in May, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). On a year-over-year basis, industry employment has expanded by 283,000 jobs, an increase of 3.8%.

Nonresidential construction employment increased by 19,400 positions. Heavy and civil engineering added 11,300 new jobs, while nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 5,700. Nonresidential building firms also added 2,400 new positions.

Rapidly rising hourly earnings appear to have driven the May increase, according to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). But a record number of job openings going into the month suggests contractors still want to hire even more workers.

“It is encouraging that contractors were able to add workers in May, but they will need many more to meet the increasing demand for infrastructure and private nonresidential projects,” said AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson. “Despite steeply rising pay for hourly workers, job openings in construction hit an all-time high at the end of April, while the industry’s low unemployment rate suggests experienced workers are scarce.”

The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience tumbled from 6.7% in May 2021 to 3.8% last month, Simonson noted. The number of unemployed construction workers fell by 250,000 or 39% to 392,000, suggesting there are few experienced jobseekers left to hire now, he added.

AGC officials cautioned that the lack of available workers is undermining construction activity. They urged public officials at all levels to put in place more training programs to expose high school students and adults to career opportunities in construction. They also called on Congress and the Biden Administration to allow more workers with construction skills to legally enter the country.

“There is no shortage of available, good-paying career opportunities in the construction industry,” said AGC CEO Stephen E. Sandherr. “Public officials should be exposing people to construction career opportunities that pay well and don’t require a college degree and the debt that all too often comes with it.”

The construction unemployment rate decreased to 3.8% in May. Unemployment across all industries remained unchanged at 3.6% last month.

“If we look at a single data point, it appears that the nation is entering a period of slower job growth,” said Anirban Basu, chief economist for Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). “Today’s estimate reveals job growth has finally fallen below the threshold of 400,000 new jobs a month. It is unclear whether this is primarily due to a lack of workers available to fill open positions or employers balking at high and rising wages. In either case, the implication is that consumer spending power will not expand as rapidly in the months ahead, setting the stage for softer economic growth and eventually slower inflation.

“In economics, it is often the case that bad news is good news and vice versa,” added Basu. “Many will view today’s somewhat weaker jobs report as bad news, but for contractors, this may turn out to be highly positive. To the extent that the economy slows, the Federal Reserve may decide not to raise interest rates as aggressively, at least once the summer is past. That will help moderate increases in the cost of capital, contributing to ongoing demand for construction services, which has slipped in the most recent month, according to ABC’s Construction Confidence Index.”