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Construction Employment Rises in September

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Nonresidential construction employment experienced slightly more growth than residential construction.

Construction employment rose by 22,000 in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment in the field has also gone down (not seasonally adjusted) from 7.1% in September 2020 to 4.5% last month. 

Residential construction employment saw a 2.2% growth from August to September 2021. Nonresidential construction experienced a 4.1% growth in the same period. 

However, employment in construction is 201,000 below its February 2020 level, the BLS pointed out.

The overall unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 4.8%. The number of unemployed persons fell by 710,000 to 7.7 million.

“Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the American economy added 194,000 jobs in the month of September, and the unemployment rate was 4.8%, down from 5.2 % in August," U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said. "With the lowest unemployment rate since the pandemic began and sustained growth in private sector employment, the Biden-Harris administration is continuing to get people back to work. Since the President took office, we have added 4.8 million jobs, an average of over 600,000 jobs per month."

Industry response

“The economy added fewer than 200,000 jobs in September, well below the consensus forecast of 500,000 new jobs, making it clear that August’s disappointing employment performance was not an aberration,” Associated Builders & Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu said. “Earlier during the summer, the U.S. economy had been adding jobs at a rapid pace. The last few weeks suggest the final stages of labor market recovery will prove extremely challenging.

“Theories abound regarding why employers are struggling to fill available jobs, including fear of infection and vaccination, previously received federal assistance and changed values during the pandemic,” Basu continued. “Recent data suggest that many job seekers are actively looking for opportunities to continue to work from home much of the time. Construction generally does not supply many opportunities for telework.

“Despite adding jobs on net in September, construction industry employment remains below March 2021 levels, and recent economic data suggest that some fraction of the confidence contractors have been expressing in recent months is unjustified,” Basu added. “Inflationary pressures are slowing the pace of recovery in nonresidential construction, and with global supply chains in disarray and employers suffering ongoing difficulty filling openings, industry challenges will persist into 2022. At some point, however, the labor market should begin to normalize as people experience growing difficulty paying their bills and global supply chain dynamics eventually improve."

“While it is refreshing to see job gains in both residential and nonresidential construction, nonresidential building and infrastructure employment remains far below its pre-pandemic peak,” said Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors' chief economist. “It will take more than a few months of gains to match the overall economy.”

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