Both Sides of the Unemployment Data Coin

Here’s how the Bureau of Labor Statistics introduced the latest unemployment data today:

Total nonfarm payroll employment grew by 431,000 in May, reflecting
the hiring of 411,000 temporary employees to work on Census 2010, the
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Private-sector em-
ployment changed little (+41,000). Manufacturing, temporary help ser-
vices, and mining added jobs, while construction employment declined.
The unemployment rate edged down to 9.7 percent.

Here’s how Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America reacted.  Simonson delivered his response to the BLS numbers under the headline

CONSTRUCTION EMPLOYMENT DROPS AGAIN AS 35,000 WORKERS LOSE JOBS IN MAY, WHILE SECTOR’S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE STAYS ABOVE 20 PERCENT

As Simonson says,

 “Construction employment declined in May as 35,000 workers lost jobs, offsetting most of the increases the industry experienced in March and April, according to a new analysis of federal employment figures by the Associated General Contractors of America. The figures show how fragile the sector is despite recent increases in stimulus funding activity, association officials noted.

“Growing stimulus activity was clearly offset by weak private sector demand and diminished state and local construction budgets last month,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Unfortunately, construction employment is likely to remain both relatively low and unstable until at least early 2011.”

Construction employment declined from 5,626,000 to 5,591,000 between April and May 2010, Simonson noted. Meanwhile the construction unemployment rate, which is not seasonally adjusted, actually declined from 21.7 percent to 20.1 percent during the same time period. With over 1.7 million construction workers unemployed, however, Simonson noted that the industry’s unemployment rate was still more than double the national rate and was the highest May rate since the series began in 1976.”