Nonresidential Construction a Bright Spot in Disappointing Jobs Report, ABC Says

National construction employment remained largely unchanged in March, adding 6,000 net new jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The nonresidential construction sector added 13,300 net new jobs for the month, while the residential sector lost 7,600 net jobs.

“While today’s jobs report will be viewed primarily as a disappointment, nonresidential construction remains a bright spot, adding 13,000 jobs,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Nonresidential construction’s growth is impressive given March’s colder weather, but it represents a slowing from the first two months of the year, when the sector averaged 29,100 net new jobs created per month.

“Total construction employment, hurt by job losses in the residential sector, also slowed in March from an average of 46,500 jobs per month in the first two months of 2017. Year-over-year total construction employment continued to easily outpace the overall economy, increasing by 2.6 percent from March 2016 compared to the broader nonfarm payroll expansion of 1.5 percent, signifying the industry’s economic health.

“A number of nonresidential segments performed particularly well from the perspective of job creation,” said Basu. “These included specialty trade contractors, who remained busy working on commercial construction projects, and heavy and civil engineering, which suggests a pickup in highway and street spending.

“With the nation’s unemployment rate now at just 4.5 percent, there is little reason to believe that securing construction talent is set to become easier,” said Basu. “In fact, the skilled worker shortages already experienced by many contractors are likely to become more severe as the year proceeds. The average contractor can therefore anticipate sharper compensation cost increases, particularly as firms securing new work scramble to put together project teams.”

The construction industry unemployment rate, which is available only on a nonseasonally adjusted basis, fell by 0.4 percent in March and now stands at 8.4 percent. The national unemployment rate fell by 0.2 percent and now stands at 4.5 percent

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