Employment in the U.S. construction industry increased for only the second time in the past 15 months during June. Monthly losses during the period of decline ranged from less than 10,000 in August, September and December 2001 and March and May 2002 to a nadir of 52,000 during April of this year. After several consecutive years of strong growth, the construction industry's total employment level at the beginning of this summer was 2.2% below its level of June 2001 following annual increases that have averaged 5.4% during the past five years. This amounted to the loss of an estimated 351,000 jobs in the U.S. construction sector over the past 12 months.
Specialty trade contractor payrolls (-2.9% from June 2001 to June 2002) have faded the most over the past year, while employment losses in the heavy construction (-1.6%) and general building contractor (-0.5%) subsectors have been relatively smaller, but still in sharp contrast to the consistently strong growth trends of the past five years.
An estimated 6.8 million Americans were employed by the construction industry during June 2002. But although the total number of jobs in the construction sector has declined by more than 2% over the past 12 months, overall labor market conditions in the industry, as measured by job trends, hours worked and average wages, remain considerably healthier than in most of the other sectors of the U.S. economy. And the construction industry's modest over-the-year job loss was in sharp contrast to the 5.6% over-the-year loss of jobs recorded by the nation's manufacturing sector.