The construction industry added 7,000 jobs from August to September, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing construction unemployment to 3.2%. This is the same percentage reported in May of this year, which came in as the lowest unemployment rate in the last 10 years.
Construction wages are also at their highest in the last decade, according to historical BLS data. Average hourly earnings are at $30.81, a year-over-year increase of 66 cents and $5.93 more than reported in September 2009. Average weekly earnings were at $1,226.24 as of September 2019 versus $1,178.87 in September 2018 and $933 in September 2009. Non-supervisory construction workers, however, averaged only $28.58 per hour as of September 2019, with average weekly earnings of $1,148.92.
The construction industry unemployment figures narrowly beat the national unemployment rate of 3.5%.
As far as nonresidential construction is concerned, employment increased by 3,800 positions in September, according to an analysis by Anirban Basu of the Associated Builders and Contractors, bringing the total of additional nonresidential jobs during the last 12 months to 96,300.
That is in comparison to 156,000 total construction jobs added during the last year. Nonresidential specialty trade positions increased by 3,000, and the heavy and civil engineering subcategory added 2,400 new jobs. The nonresidential building subcategory came out of September with 1,600 jobs, bringing it an 8,400-position loss for the year.
Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), pointed out that construction employment’s lethargic 2.1% hop forward in September represented the slowest pace of growth in more than six years but that the rate was still higher than the total U.S. nonfarm employment increase of 1.4%.
Construction wages were also higher than the overall private sector’s $28.09 per hour. Contractors have reported to the AGC, according to Simonson, that they have raised wages — in addition to benefits, bonuses and other incentive offers — in response to the limited pool of available skilled workers.
In fact, the AGC said that the relatively limited growth in construction employment could be more a function of the tight labor supply rather than a lack of demand for workers.