WASHINGTON (March 5, 2021) — According to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry lost 61,000 jobs net in February. While construction unemployment has risen to 9.6% in February (4.1% higher than last year), unemployment across all industries dropped slightly last month to 6.2% (6.3% in January).

“Today’s employment report should not cause alarm among stakeholders in the nonresidential construction industry,” said ABC National Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “In recent months, contractors have become more upbeat regarding industry prospects, as indicated by ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator, citing rising backlog and expectations for rising employment, sales and even profit margins. While the loss of employment is never pleasant, February data were impacted by weather-related interruptions in the South, which likely resulted in some temporary job loss, but tells us little about fundamental industry dynamics.

This news comes despite the addition of 805,000 jobs in the last 10 months. This recovery followed a rough first half of 2020, with layoffs greatly impacting the workforce as jobs were canceled or postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 709,000 workers, or 10.8% of the total construction workforce, were laid off or discharged in April 2020 alone.

 

 

Meanwhile, a recent The Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report indicates that the construction labor market tightness will persist despite hopes that the job losses in 2020 might relieve the ongoing skilled labor shortages that have plagued the industry for years. JOLTS data now indicates an ongoing tightening of the nation’s construction labor market. The data from JOLTS, however, also indicates that construction firms are clinging to their workers more aggressively, with layoff activity decreasing late in 2020 before a decline in employment in early 2021.