The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 29, 2018

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Down goes the U.S. jobless rate

Michigan's construction employment is doing just fine, thank you, as you'll see elsewhere on this page. The job picture for the overall economy in the Michigan and the U.S.? It's doing pretty well, too.

Although Michigan (at No. 43) currently has no bragging rights and is near the bottom of the states when it comes to its unemployment rate, our state's 4.6 percent jobless rate is a far cry from the 14.4 percent level in June 2009, during the height of the Great Recession. The June numbers come from the Labor Department via the Economic Policy Institute.

Michigan's increase in jobs over the past 12 months is a modest 1.3 percent, representing an increase of about 57,800 jobs. Overall the state has gained 179,000 jobs since December 2007.

Overall in the U.S. from May to June, "the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent, its lowest level since the heady days of the dot-com boom in early 2000," says The New York Times. "The net increase of 223,000 jobs reflected healthy gains in a broad range of industries, from manufacturing and transportation to health care and retailing."

Construction up and down - but mostly up

The familiar up-and-down pattern that has marked the construction industry's recovery was made known again this spring, as U.S. building starts advanced 15 percent in May - after declining 12 percent in March.

A June 20 report by Dodge Data & Analytics said the lift in May came from substantial gains in non-building construction (road and infrastructure work), up 30 percent that month, and nonresidential building, up 18 percent. 

Total construction starts for the 12 months ending May 2018 were up 1 percent compared to the prior year. 

“During the first five months of 2018, total construction starts have shown an up-and-down pattern, with May coming in strong after a subdued April,” said Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics.  “Much of the volatility in early 2018 has come from the public works sector, affected by the presence of unusually large project starts during a given month such as what took place in May.  In addition, the nonresidential building sector showed resilience in May, bouncing back after a lackluster performance in April.

“On balance, the pace of total construction starts is staying close to the levels achieved over the past year, when activity grew 5 percent. It’s true that the construction industry is facing increased headwinds, such as higher material prices and the recent pickup in interest rates, but to this point, they have not yet produced a discernible negative impact on the overall level of construction starts."