Construction job losses remain heavy, widespread; homebuilding rises, nonres sinks

Data DIGest
October 5, 2009
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION

Seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll job losses in September totaled 263,000, barely half the average of the last 12 months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday [Oct. 2]. (Seasonal adjustment takes into account normal monthly variations in weather and numbers of work days.) But construction, particularly nonresidential, continued to hemorrhage jobs. Construction lost 15 percent of its September 2008 jobs in the last 12 months, compared to 4 percent for the entire nonfarm economy. September losses totaled 51,000 in nonresidential building, specialty trade, and heavy and civil engineering construction combined, nearly the monthly average loss of 54,000 over the past 12 months. Residential building and specialty trade contractors shed a combined 13,000 jobs in September, barely a third as many as the monthly average over the 12-month span. One faintly positive sign was that architectural and engineering services employment, a harbinger of future demand for construction, rose for the first time in 15 months, albeit by only 500 jobs (0.04 percent). Average hourly earnings in construction tumbled 16 cents to $22.45 in September, bringing the 12-month change to 36 cents or 1.6 percent, compared to 2.5 percent for all private-sector production or nonsupervisory employees. The overall unemployment rate climbed to 9.5 percent in September, not seasonally adjusted (9.8 percent, seasonally adjusted) from 6.0 percent a year earlier. The unemployment rate in construction, 17.1 percent, not seasonally adjusted, again topped every other industry and was up from 9.9 percent a year earlier, according to an Oct. 2 Data DIGest report.

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