March 13, 2013

Construction employment hits three-year high

By Thomas Grillo

The building boom is on.

Construction companies added 48,000 jobs in February, the ninth consecutive month of job growth, as more people are working in construction than at any point in the last three plus years, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America.

“With construction employment increasing by the largest amount for a single month in nearly six years, the steady improvement in construction hiring is particularly encouraging,” said Kenneth Simonson, the association’s chief economist, in a statement. “The job gains are coming from every part of the construction industry and while the sector’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, it is heading in the right direction.”

Construction firms employed 5.78 million people in February, a gain of 48,000 from January and 140,000 or 2.5 percent from a year ago. The industry unemployment rate, which is not seasonally adjusted and thus is typically high in February, fell to 15.7 percent last month, down from 17.1 percent one year ago.

Residential and nonresidential construction added jobs for the month and year. Residential construction added 19,400 jobs in February and 64,200, a 3.1 percent gain, over the last year. Nonresidential construction expanded by 29,000 employees in February and 75,700 or 2.1 percent, over last year.

Association officials said that recent improvements in construction employment could be undermined if Congress and the Obama administration fail to reach agreement to fund federal operations known as a continuing resolution by the time it expires on March 27. Should Washington officials fail to enact a new continuing resolutions, tens of billions of dollars worth of federal investments in infrastructure and construction projects could be shut down, the association said.

Check Out The Huge Surge In Construction Jobs

The jobs report crushed expectations, with jobs coming in at 236K, ahead of the 165K that analysts had expected.

Here’s an interesting sub-number.

Construction jobs are booming:

In February, employment in construction increased by 48,000. Since September, construction employment has risen by 151,000. In February, job growth occurred in specialty trade contractors, with this gain about equally split between residential (+17,000) and nonresidential specialty trade contractors (+15,000). Nonresidential building construction also added jobs (+6,000).

Housing starts have been booming, but actual construction jobs have lagged a bit. No more.

Utah Saw 3.1 Percent Employment Growth in January

Utah’s nonfarm wage and salaried job estimate for January 2013, as generated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), expanded by 3.1 percent compared against the employment level for January 2012. This is a 12-month increase of 37,800 jobs and raises total wage and salary employment to 1,249,900.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate — generated by BLS — is Utah’s other primary indicator of current labor market conditions and registers 5.4 percent.

About 73,100 Utahns are considered to be actively unemployed. The current United States unemployment rate stands at 7.9 percent.

Utah enters the new year with employment growth at its long-term average of 3.1 percent. The unemployment rate stands at 5.4 percent and has fallen by three percentage points from its recession high of 8.4 percent in 2010. The labor force participation rate at 66.7 percent remains noticeably below its pre-recession high of 72 percent and is only little changed from the recession-period low of 66.5 percent that was recorded in September of 2012. Utah’s job growth of the past two years has not been forceful enough to change the dynamic of Utah’s labor participation. The numbers imply that those who moved out of the labor force during the recession are not yet feeling compelled to return to a job search and inclusion in the labor force.

An employment growth of 3.1 percent over the past 12 months places Utah with favorable job growth to build upon in 2013. It is expected that the state’s new home building market will show some post-recession life in 2013 and will help to push this growth rate higher as 2013 progresses. Currently, all industrial sectors are adding new jobs to Utah’s employment base with the exception of government.

Goods Producing

Construction employment is estimated to be up by 2,700 positions over the past 12 months, standing at 64,800. This is a turnaround from this industry’s recession low point, but still represents an employment level much below this industry’s historical norm. Whereas construction employment generally makes up around 6 percent of all Utah employment, it is currently at 5.2 percent. There is still improvement yet to be realized from this industry when Utah starts to build again in relation to its population increase of the past five years.

Employer/Programs
Manufacturing employment continues to rebound from its recession setback, adding 3,800 new jobs over the past 12 months. The job increases are broad based, as gains are recorded in many manufacturing categories, led by fabricated and primary metals, rubber and plastics, surgical equipment and sporting goods.

Service Producing
Utah’s largest employment sector is trade, transportation and utilities. Estimated employment gains of 8,800 over the past 12 months make this one of Utah’s better-performing sectors. These gains are largely occurring on the retail trade component with not much gain in wholesale trade. The transportation component added 1,800 new jobs over the past 12 months, with much of this in trucking and courier services.

The Information sector is estimated to have added 2,600 new jobs over the past 12 months. Information includes the publishing industry, motion pictures, telecommunications, and internet service providers, among others.

The Financial sector continues to rebound from its recession setback. Approximately 3,800 jobs have been added over the past 12 months. Most of these are in financial institutions. The real estate side of the equation has yet to post noticeable gains.

The professional and business services sector added 7,000 jobs in Utah over the past year. Half of these are coming from the professional, scientific, and technical side, an area that generally requires greater levels of education for employment and also returns higher-than-average wages. This includes accounting, engineering, design services, computer systems design forms, and consulting services, among others.

Private education and health services is a stalwart of the Utah economy, having grown through both of the recessions of the past ten years. The sector is estimated to have added 3,500 new jobs in Utah over the past 12 months.

The Leisure and Hospitality sector is estimated to have added 9,100 new jobs over the past 12 months. When revised data comes in several months down the road, this current estimate will most likely be viewed as quite generous.

Government is the only industry estimated with lower employment in Utah than a year ago; down by 5,400 positions. Federal government declines lead the way, but both state and local government estimates are also down. Most of this is in education, particularly at the state level. This decline is probably just the quirks of the calendar, as the monthly surveying of employers only asks for the employment counts of one week of the month. If that week does not coincide with the seasonal return to a new college semester and returning student employment, employment levels can look lower than the previous year if the previous year’s calendar did cover the start of the new semester. That appears to be the case for the decline this year.

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