Construction employment increased in December 2011 by 17,000, driven by gains in nonresidential construction employment, according the Associated General Contractors of America, Washington, D.C.
AGC officials said that construction employment likely benefited from unseasonably warm weather across much of the country that extended the building season.
“Nonresidential construction is clearly driving [December’s] employment gains,” said Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist. “But it is too early to tell whether those gains came because the weather was good enough for crews to keep working well into December or because demand is truly rebounding.”
Total construction employment now stands at 5,544,000, or 0.3% higher than a month earlier and 46,000 (0.8%) higher than December 2010, Simonson said. He added that the latest employment figures continue a months-long trend of slight gains followed by slight declines in construction employment, and that overall construction employment is still far below its peak level of 7,726,000 in April 2006. Despite the employment increase in December 2011, the industry’s unemployment rose in December to 16%, up from 13.1% in November.
Simonson said nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 20,200 positions, while heavy and civil engineering construction firms that perform the majority of publicly funded construction work shed 300 jobs. Nonresidential building contractors shed 2,700 jobs in December. Residential construction lost 400 total jobs, as the residential specialty trade contractors shed 2,900 jobs and residential builders added only 2,500 positions in December.