Construction employment rises

The construction industry was up 21,000 jobs in January, likely due to two months of unseasonably mild winter weather. The Associated General Contractors of America released data attributing the higher temperatures to the two-year high in employment for the industry.

However, Association officials are wary of whether the rise in employment will last.

“Although it’s great news that the industry has added 52,000 jobs in the past two months, the unemployment rate in construction is still double that of the overall economy, and construction employment remains at 1996 levels,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

Total construction employment for February stood at 5,572,000, or 0.4 percent higher than in January, and 116,000 (21 percent) higher than in January 2011. February’s construction employment was still 28 percent below its peak level of 7,726,000 in April 2006 and is no higher than in August 1996.

The industry’s unemployment rate in January was 17.7 percent, not seasonally adjusted. The rate was down from 22.5 percent a year earlier but still double the all-industry rate of 8.8 percent (8.5 percent, seasonally adjusted).

Similar job gains occurred across the major construction segments in the past year. Heavy and civil engineering construction employment grew by 2.6 percent or 21,000 jobs from January 2011 to January 2012, and nonresidential building and specialty trade contractors increased their combined employment by 2.0 percent (17,000 jobs) while employment among residential building and specialty trade contractors rose by 2.1 percent (41,000 jobs).

Association officials said they were pleased with the increase in jobs, but they were concerned employment would drop if there is no governmental funding for highways and other infrastructures.