Construction employment stalls in January 2021

By |  February 9, 2021


Construction employment stagnated in January, ending eight months of recovery from the pandemic-related losses of early 2020, according to an analysis of government data by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

Construction employment dipped by 3,000 to 7.39 million in January, from a downwardly revised December total, AGC says. Employment in the sector remains 256,000, or 3.3 percent, lower than the most recent peak of February 2020.

Nonresidential construction has had a much weaker recovery than homebuilding and home improvement construction, AGC says. While both parts of the industry had huge job losses in early 2020 from the pre-pandemic peak in February to April, residential building and specialty trade contractors have now recouped all of the employment losses they incurred.

In contrast, nonresidential construction employment – comprising nonresidential building, specialty trades, and heavy and civil engineering construction – was 259,000, or 5.5 percent, lower in January versus February 2020.

Unemployment in construction soared over the past 12 months, according to AGC. The industry’s unemployment rate in January was 9.4 percent, compared to 5.4 percent in January 2020. A total of 938,000 former construction workers were unemployed, up from 515,000 a year earlier. Both figures were the highest for January since 2015, the association says.

Association officials say that new measures being considered in Congress, such as the PRO Act and the National Apprenticeship Act, threaten to undermine the sector’s recovery by disrupting ongoing projects and hampering employers’ ability to train workers.

“The stagnation in construction employment in January may foreshadow further deterioration in the industry as projects that had started before the pandemic finish up and owners hold off on awarding new work,” says Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “With so much of the economy still shut down or operating at reduced levels, it will likely be a long time before many nonresidential contractors are ready to hire again.”

Carly Bemer

About the Author:

Carly Bemer (McFadden) is a former Associate Editor for Pit & Quarry.

Comments are closed