The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 17, 2014

U.S. construction continues upward slog

By The Building Tradesman

U.S. construction employment grew 2.1 percent during 2013, adding 122,000 jobs from a year earlier, says a Jan. 10 report by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The mild but welcome uptick in employment took place despite a loss of 16,000 jobs in December , snapping a six-month streak of construction industry job gains. Construction employment remains nearly 1.9 million below the sector’s April 2006 peak. The number of U.S. construction jobs totaled 5.83 million at the end of 2013. In December 2012, the unemployment rate was 13.5 percent, and it leapt to 16.1 percent in January. But it trended mostly downward through the year, and would up at 11.4 percent in December 2013.

“Given the variability of weather, especially in winter, the downturn in December is not cause for alarm,” said Ken Simonson, the AGC’s chief economist. “The data does show how uneven the recovery remains with residential construction doing very well, but the public sector remains weak and private nonresidential construction is mixed.”

AGC officials said the outlook for construction could be helped by new investments in infrastructure and other construction programs, which have been sorely underfunded.  They urged Congress to finalize Water Resources Development Act legislation to invest in ports and other waterways.  They also said Congress and the administration should work together to find a way to pay for needed repairs to aging roads and bridges before the current transportation legislation expires at the end of September .

“If the economy continues to expand and Washington can work together to make needed infrastructure investments, firms should be able to add significantly more jobs in 2014” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “But Congress and the administration need to set aside partisan differences and find a way to work together in the interest of our economy.”