Construction unemployment sets a record, jobs continue stoking the economy

By Larry StewartMay 10, 2023

The easing housing market may have reduced March home-builder job openings, but April hiring staffs up U.S. home building above pre-pandemic levels. Employment in the overall construction sector increased by 15,000, following an 11,000 loss in March. The overall construction-sector unemployment rate fell to a record low for the month.

The unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experienced declined from 4.6% in April 2022 to 4.1%, the lowest April rate in the 23-year history of the data. Separate government data reported that job openings throughout construction at the end of March totaled 355,000, just shy of the all-time high for March of 359,000.

Residential and nonresidential construction industry employment totaled 7.9 million in April, surpassing its pre-pandemic level, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data. Non-residential construction employment gained 800 jobs in April. Residential construction jobs rebounded from March’s loss, adding 14,200 jobs. This puts home-building employment above February 2020, and all nonresidential construction jobs lost in the early pandemic shut downs have been recovered.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 253,000 in April, following a gain of 165,000 in March, as reported in the Employment Situation Summary. More than 4.7 million jobs have been created since March 2022, when the Federal Reserve enacted the first interest rate hike. The unemployment rate edged down to 3.4% in April. The unemployment rate for construction workers decreased 0.8 percentage points to 3.6%.

Meanwhile, the U.S. labor-force participation rate, the proportion of the population either looking for a job or already holding a job, remains unchanged at 62.6%. Moreover, the labor force participation rate for people between ages 25 and 54 rose to 83.3%. While the overall labor force participation rate is still below its pre-pandemic levels, the rate for people between 25 and 54 years old exceeds the pre-pandemic level of 83.1%.

The Associated General Contractors’ report on monthly government data points out that average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in construction – covering most onsite craft workers as well as many office workers – jumped by 6.7% over the year to $33.94 per hour. The average construction firm paid nearly 19% more than the average hourly earnings for all private-sector production employees.

(Graph: Associated General Contractors of America)
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