“Depression-era” unemployment for U.S. construction
By Andy Bateman
February 6, 2010 – A report issued yesterday
by the Associated General Contractors of America
confirms a dire U.S.
construction employment situation.
Overall U.S. job growth
continued to be undermined by the severe downturn affecting the construction
industry as another 75,000 construction workers lost their jobs in January 2010
and the industry’s unemployment rate jumped to 24.7 percent, according to
federal employment figures released today. Excluding construction job losses,
non-farm payroll employment actually rose for the second time in three months,
the Associated General Contractors of America noted.
“Unlike the rest of the
economy, the construction industry continues to shed jobs at virtually the same
rate in January as it has for the past twelve months,” said Ken Simonson, the
association’s chief economist. “The stimulus appears to be the only bright spot
for an industry suffering from depression-era unemployment levels.”
Simonson noted that heavy
and civil engineering construction employment, which includes highway
construction, was unchanged for the month of January. He suggested that
stimulus-funded construction activity was helping keep employment stable in
that one industry category.
Overall declines in
construction activity, however, have cost 926,000 construction workers their
jobs since January 2009, a 14.1 percent drop, the construction economist noted.
He added that construction accounted for nearly one-quarter of all job losses
in the past 12 months (926,000 out of 4 million, 23 percent), even though the
industry employs only 4.3 percent of all non farm payroll employees (5.6
million out of 129.5 million).
industry’s troubles are having a broad impact, Simonson noted. Earlier this
week, for example, pipe-maker Mueller Water Products was forced to close an
iron pipe plant in North Birmingham,
Alabama, citing, in part,
decreased demand for its products. And he warned that with architectural
services employment down 14.6 percent over the past 12 months, there are likely
to be fewer projects later this year.
“Any effort by Congress
and the Administration to address the nation’s unemployment challenges must
include significant new investments in infrastructure,” said Stephen E.
Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “As today’s report makes
clear, without those investments, a bad jobs picture will only get much worse.”