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Nonresidential Construction Hiring Up 13K in September

Oct. 7, 2022
Latest industry jobs numbers continue to show strength, yet again, despite persistent worries over inflation and recession. Nearly 300,000 have been hired since last fall, says BLS.

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 — The U.S. construction industry added 19,000 jobs on net in September, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On a year-over-year basis, industry employment has risen by 292,000 jobs, or 3.9%. 

Nonresidential construction employment increased by 13,100 positions on net, with growth in two of the three subcategories. Nonresidential specialty trade added 11,200 net new jobs, while nonresidential building added an additional 2,400. The number of heavy and civil engineering jobs decreased by 500 positions.

The construction unemployment rate decreased to 3.4% in September. Unemployment across all industries fell from 3.7% in August to 3.5% last month.

“Today's employment report was terrific, which in this upside-down, inside-out economic environment means that it was truly terrible,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Stock, bond and other investors are hunting for signs of slowing economic activity, particularly with respect to the labor market. Those signs did not emerge today. Despite elevated compensation costs, employers continue to hire aggressively. Not only does that help support additional inflationary pressure, but it also sends a signal to Federal Reserve policymakers that further aggressive rate tightening is necessary. If rates rise too dramatically, and they have already expanded substantially, the recovery in nonresidential activity would likely buckle.

“Despite rising borrowing costs and elevated risk of recession, most contractors remain upbeat regarding near-term prospects, according to ABC’s Construction Confidence Index,” said Basu. “Backlog remains stable, and many contractors expect rising sales, employment and profit margins over the next six months. Many contractors also continue to report operating at capacity. Their primary issue is not insufficient demand for construction services, but rather a lack of access to skilled craft professionals.”

On Oct. 4, BLS also released the results of its latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which found that our industry had reported 407,000 job openings in August. JOLTS defines a job opening as any unfilled position for which an employer is actively recruiting. Industry job openings increased by 54,000 last month and are up by 45,000 from the same time last year.

Construction workers quit their jobs at a faster rate than they were laid off or discharged for the 18th consecutive month in August.

"Today’s job openings estimate is further evidence that contractors continue to hunt for talent,” said Basu. “In August, 5% of all construction jobs were unfilled, higher than at any point between 2001, when the BLS began tracking it, and 2021.

“Despite the increase in construction industry job openings, the overall number of job openings economywide fell to 10.1 million, its lowest level since June 2021,” he added. “This is actually good news for the real estate and construction segments, as any evidence of weakening economic momentum brings us closer to the point when the Federal Reserve can stop ramping up borrowing costs.”

For more economic news from ABC, click here.