Construction Employment Declines By 11,000 Between June and July While The Industry's Unemployment Rate Hit 17.3 Percent
As Stimulus Projects Begin to Wind Down and Private, State and Local Demand Remains Flat, Construction Group Urges Congress and the Administration to Act on Long-Delayed Infrastructure Bills
Construction employment decreased by 11,000 between June and July 2010 while the industry's unemployment rate fell to 17.3 percent, according to a new analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of federal employment data released today. The third month of construction employment declines, despite the stimulus, reflects overall weak demand for private, local and state funded construction, association officials noted.
"The fact that this industry continues to suffer from unemployment rates nearly double the national average is a reflection of how much demand for construction has cratered in little more than two years," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Worse yet, there's every indication that as the benefits of the stimulus fade the industry's employment picture will get even worse."
Sandherr noted that since July 2008, construction employment has declined by a total of 1,591,000 jobs, a 22 percent decline. He added that even though the industry accounts for four percent of the non-farm workforce, it has experienced 23 percent of the total job losses over the past two years. "The sad fact is that construction workers have been forced to endure depression-like conditions for far too long."
Heavy and civil engineering construction - the category that covers most workers in transportation, power, water and wastewater construction - lost 700 workers in July and has held roughly steady since last October, as federal stimulus funds have boosted construction in these categories, Sandherr noted. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors were a lone bright spot, gaining 8,000 workers in July.
Noting continued high retail, commercial and manufacturing vacancy rates and depressed state and local tax revenues, association officials said overall construction demand was unlikely to increase until at least 2011 and likely much later in many areas of the industry. Given the fact that many stimulus-funded construction projects were likely to end later this year, they urged Congress and the Administration to act now to pass a host of long-delayed infrastructure bills to finance new highway, transit, water and utility projects that are crucial to America's global economic competitiveness.
"Anyone who thinks we are going to outcompete China and India with old roads, unsafe bridges and outdated power grids is either sadly wrong or woefully ill-informed," Sandherr said. "The choice ought to be clear: put Americans to work today rebuilding our economy, or be prepared for our economy to drown in traffic, brownouts and water shortages."