Construction employment added 8,000 jobs to a 15-month high in July but remained far below the peak set in early 2006, according to an analysis of new federal employment data released this week by the Associated General Contractors of America. The AGC again urged lawmakers to pass long-term funding for public projects.
The industry’s unemployment rate fell from 17.3 percent a year ago to 13.6 percent in July 2011, and the number of unemployed people who previously worked in construction shrank by nearly 400,000, said AGC chief economist Ken Simonson. Still, Simonson said, July 2011 employment total of 5.5 million was only 32,000 higher than in July 2010 and was almost 2.2 million, or 28 percent, below record April 2006 levels.
“It is encouraging that the construction industry has added 54,000 jobs, or 1 percent, since hitting bottom last January,” Simonson said. “However, unemployed workers are leaving the industry at seven times the rate they are finding jobs in it, which suggests future expansion will be hard to achieve.”
Employment in heavy and civil engineering construction — the segment that previously added jobs as a result of federal funding for stimulus, military base realignment and Gulf Coast hurricane protection projects — shrank for the third month in a row, by 400 jobs, although the July 2011 was 21,000 jobs, or 2.5-percent higher, than a year earlier.
“The shift in employment from heavy projects such as highways, military bases and levees to factories, power projects and hospitals will continue as government spending shrinks and the private sector gradually expands,” Simonson said. “But overall job creation will remain sluggish at best unless single-family homebuilding revives.”
Association officials added that it is essential that public officials at all levels of government avoid shutdowns and AGC reiterated its call to streamline approvals of public works.