April was a good month for construction employment, with the industry adding 17,000 jobs, the Associated Builders and Contractors said, citing federal government statistics.
The figures are a rebound from March, which saw a loss of 10,000 jobs. The final number was smaller than earlier estimates, which pegged job losses at 15,000. The industry’s overall unemployment rate fell to 6.5 percent. The national unemployment rate sits at 3.9 percent — its lowest level since December 2000.
“Today’s employment report supplies strong confirmation of the ongoing momentum in the U.S. nonresidential construction industry,” said the ABC’s chief economist, Anirban Basu. “First, nonresidential construction spending data has been weak recently, suggesting a possible slowdown in activity despite elevated backlog and other data indicating continued strength. The employment data released today make it highly likely that the nonresidential construction spending data are failing to fully capture the current level of activity. Second, the data indicate continued momentum in private nonresidential construction activity, which has served as the primary source of industry growth. However, public activity continues to be soft, as reflected in the lost employment in the heavy and civil engineering category last month.”
Nonresidential construction jobs increased by 9,000 during April, ABC said. Civil and heavy engineering lost 3,400 positions.
“The decline in national unemployment to 3.9 percent offers both positive and negative news,” Basu added. “The positive news is that the U.S. economy continues to flourish, creating new opportunities for job seekers. This should help support continued consumer spending growth. However, the dip in unemployment also foretells more inflationary pressure and higher interest rates. Higher borrowing costs make it more difficult to efficiently finance construction projects. To the extent that interest rates are likely to rise further, construction activity can be expected to flatten at some point in the middle and long term.”