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Residential Construction Employment Rises in November but Nonresidential Slips

Nonresidential construction employment declined by 3,600 net new jobs.

The construction market overall saw continued expansion in employment in November but nonresidential workers saw jobs decline by 3,600.

Construction employment expanded by 5,000 net new jobs last month, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data conducted by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Washington, D.C. Year over year, the industry added 282,000 net new construction jobs, a 4% increase in total industry-wide employment.

Nonresidential construction employment declined by 3,600 net new jobs, with the losses split between the nonresidential building subsector (down 800) and nonresidential specialty trade contractors (down 3,000), while heavy and civil engineering added 200 net new jobs.

Construction unemployment rose to 3.9% in November, 0.3 percentage points higher than the previous month but 1.1 percentage points lower year-over-year. For context, the official national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7%.

“While it is true that nonresidential construction employment declined last month, the decline was minimal and may simply be attributable to wildfires in California and weather,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Most contractors continue to report healthy backlog and difficulty securing sufficient talent. This implies that industry job growth is likely during the months ahead on a seasonally adjusted basis. Contractors will want to look carefully at leading indicators during the coming months, as the economic forecast is admittedly shrouded in murkiness. Further market volatility, additional losses in executive confidence and slipping leading indicators could signal that 2020 could usher forth the next economic downturn, which for many construction firms would translate into weaker performance in 2021 and perhaps beyond.”

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