The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 08, 2019

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Construction wraps up strong year

Michigan's construction industry finished out last year on a strong note, with bolstering employment numbers in December that added frosting to an already cake-like 2018.

Construction employment rose by 2,500 jobs (+1.4 percent) in Michigan from November to December, capping a 12-month period that saw our state's building industry see an increase of 11,600 jobs during the course of the year. It was a year with up and down months in Michigan - mostly ups - and that was the case in many parts of the country.

“The construction industry ended 2018 in good shape in nearly all parts of the country, and contractors are optimistic about the volume of work available in 2019,” said Associated General Contractors chief economist Ken Simonson on Jan. 18, commenting on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers. “But finding workers to execute those projects is likely to be a major challenge." 

We reported in our last issue that two other major construction industry observers are less enthusiastic about industry prospects in 2019, seeing a potential end to the consistent growth this decade.

Michigan was one of 43 states that enjoyed a construction employment increase between December 2017 to December 2018. Michigan employed 179,200 construction workers in December 2018, a gain of 6.9 percent compared to 12 months prior - ranking our state No. 13 in employment gains during that time. 

Among the states in 2018, Connecticut (+9,700 jobs, +16.9 percent), Wyoming (+2,900 jobs, +14.9 percent), and Arizona, Nevada and North Dakota experienced the highest percentage gains in construction employment. The states with the lowest gains (actually all saw losses) included South Carolina (-5,100 jobs, -5.0 percent), followed by Hawaii (-1,800 jobs, -4.8 percent) and then Alaska, Maine and Missouri.

Overall, 2018 was a good year for jobs

The overall employment picture in Michigan and the rest of the U.S. remained strong at the end of 2018, with the jobless rate falling in 41 states during the course of the year and the economy adding 220,000 jobs every month on average.

“This is good news, but 2019 could potentially bring tighter Fed policy and slower government spending," said Economic Policy Institute economic analyst Jessica Schieder. "With any boost from the tax cuts behind us, these factors could rein in growth even as workers are still continuing to rejoin the labor market.”

The national unemployment rate increased a bit in December to 3.9 percent, after staying at 3.7 percent throughout the fall months. In Michigan, the average unemployment rate throughout 2018 was 4.0 percent, not changing during the fall but dropping 0.7 percent during the course of the year. Michigan's jobless rate ranked No. 34 among the states (lowest to highest) in 2018.