Judging by employment figures, the nonresidential building market has yet to show signs of rebounding significantly from its down market. Contractors hired 5,000-10,000 workers through May, in addition to the usual seasonal hiring. Overall construction employment increased by 135,000 during the same period. Most workers (90,000) were hired by building specialty trade contractors.
While contractors added to staff at the same pace as other employers through May, they will lag behind through next year, as homebuilders finish the extra projects begun at the bottom of the interest-rate cycle and they institute layoffs.
During the next 18 months, commercial and industrial builders will compete for skilled workers with heavy contractors, buoyed by a renewed Federal highway funding plan, and remodelers and specialty contractors, who are expanding with the recent surges in existing home sales and overall employment.
But there should be plenty of labor available in most markets; the unemployment rate for people who last worked in construction is 9.4%. This rate is always well above the overall unemployment rate, now 5.6%. But there are enough available, experienced workers for construction jobs to increase by nearly 300,000 by the end of 2005 without significant pressure on wages.