The number of construction jobs in the U.S. rose for the 10th straight month as companies added about 18,000 employees in March, surpassing the 5.8 million mark for the first time since late 2009. The unemployment rate for the industry now sits at 14.7 percent, its lowest since 2008.
Part of the decline in the unemployment rate is attributed to more than 1.5 million leaving the industry for other jobs, retiring or stepping out of the workforce, according to Associated General Contractors of America Chief Economist Ken Simonson.
While the drop in unemployment is a positive note for the construction industry, officials cautioned that layoffs could occur unless policymakers in Washington, D.C., boost infrastructure investment and allow importation of needed workers as part of immigration reform.
“That makes shortages of skilled workers increasingly likely in high-demand crafts such as pipe fitting, welding and some residential activities,” he said.
The numbers showed:
• An increase of 162,000 construction workers, or 2.9 percent, compared to March 2012.
• Residential building and specialty trade contractors added 14,800 workers in March and 77,800 over 12 months.
• Nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors, along with heavy and civil engineering construction firms, grew employment by 3,000 in March and 84,400 since March 2012.
• Employment in public works construction remained flat or declined.
• There was a drop of 3,500 employees in highway, street and bridge construction from February 2012 to February 2013 and a pickup of 1,000 in water and sewer system construction.
• Oil and gas pipeline construction employment soared by 16,300 and power and communication system construction employment jumped by 14,400.