The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 16, 2015

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Jobless rate disappoints even Labor Department

WASHINGTON (PAI) - The U.S. unemployment rate stayed unchanged in September at 5.1 percent, the federal government announced Oct. 2. That and low jobs creation – 142,000 new jobs, net, that month – disappointed even the Obama administration’s Labor Department. Of the new jobs, 118,000 were in the private sector. More than half of the 24,000 new government jobs were at state colleges.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez hailed the continuing recovery from the Great Recession, but admitted it’s slower than last year. The AFL-CIO had no public comments on the numbers.

“We still face significant headwinds. We need to do more to provide people with opportunities to compete for good jobs and earn decent wages,” Perez said. “The economy remains out of balance, with too many of the benefits of this recovery enjoyed by too few people,” he said. Workers “are struggling to get by, let alone get ahead. There are steps we can take to restore that balance.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 7.915 million workers were jobless in September, 114,000 fewer than in August. But double that number (236,000) left the workforce. Private-firm job growth was, as usual, concentrated in low-wage sectors. The three biggest gainers were bars and restaurants (+20,700), health care (+34,400) and retail trade (+23,700).

By contrast, high-paying factories shed 9,000 jobs, while construction added few (+8,000) at the height of the construction season. Construction still had 479,000 officially job-less workers (5.5 percent), while factories had 652,000 (4.1 percent).

Nice boost for construction momentum 

The Dodge Data and Analytics "Momentum Index" for U.S. construction moved 5.8 percent higher in September to 133.5 (2000=100) from its August reading of 126.2, it was announced Oct. 7.

The index is a monthly measure of the initial report for nonresidential building projects in planning, which have been shown to lead construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year. The impetus behind September’s gain was a 12.0 percent increase from the previous month in institutional building planning.

 State and local budgets, which finance many projects in the institutional category, continue to recover from their recessionary weakness. "With this support," said the report, "planning for new institutional buildings has trended upward over the past year, although in a saw-tooth pattern." Commercial construction, on the other hand, is at a more mature stage of its recovery and planning has been relatively more stable. Planning in the commercial category increased 1.8 percent in September.