Rock to Road

U.S. construction unemployment rate 27.1%

March 8, 2010  By  Andy Bateman

March, 8 2010 – The
U.S. construction unemployment rate jumped to 27.1 percent and construction
employment dropped to a 14-year low as another 64,000 construction workers lost
jobs in February 2010, according to U.S. federal employment figures
released last Friday.

The economy would have
added jobs had it not been for the declines in construction employment for the
third time in four months, the Associated General Contractors of America noted. “While
the broader economy may be recovering, the construction industry continues to
decline at an alarming rate,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief
economist. “If these trends don’t change soon, millions of American families
will continue to suffer.”

Simonson noted that
industry’s job losses in February were consistent with the prior six months and
not mainly attributable to exceptionally bad weather. He added that
construction unemployment is at the highest level recorded since the federal
government began making the data available in 1976. And he noted that
nonresidential construction experienced significantly more job losses than the
residential sector in February, 53,500 jobs lost versus 10,600.

Overall declines in
construction activity, however, have cost 2.2 million construction workers
their jobs since industry employment peaked in June 2006, a 28 percent drop,
Simonson noted. Construction has accounted for 1,936,000 of the 8,425,000
nonfarm payroll job losses since the recession began in December 2007, or 23
percent of the total, even thought the industry employs only 4.3 percent of all
workers, he added.


The construction
economist noted that job losses appeared widespread across construction
sectors, with nonresidential specialty trade contractors experiencing the
largest monthly decline of 1.7 percent. He noted that even heavy and civil
engineering construction, the sector most likely to be boosted by stimulus
funded projects, experienced a 1.1 percent monthly employment decline.

“The industry has gone
from being a symptom of our economic problems to a victim of them,” said
Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. He noted that
while the current Jobs Bill prevents declines in federal highway funding, it
does little to boost overall infrastructure investments. “Until we see
meaningful increases in demand for new infrastructure and private sector
construction projects, our economy will continue to suffer.”

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