Report: Construction employment up in December 2020

By |  January 8, 2021


Construction employment increased by 51,000 jobs in December to a total of 7,413,000 – marking a 0.7 percent gain from November, according to an analysis of government data by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

Even with December’s uptick, construction employment is still 3 percent below the most recent peak in February 2020.

“December’s employment gains likely reflect milder weather than usual for the month rather than sustained demand for projects,” says Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “In fact, our survey found contractors expect the volume of work is likely to decline for nearly all nonresidential project types, and most firms have experienced project cancellations or postponements.”

AGC notes the stark contrast between residential construction, which has performed well throughout the pandemic, and the downward slide in nonresidential construction.

Residential building and specialty trade contractors have recouped all employment losses incurred from February to April 2020, AGC says, while nonresidential construction employment remains 241,000 jobs below its February peak.

Unemployment nearly doubled across the construction industry in 2020, registering at 9.6 percent in December, compared to 5 percent in December 2019. A total of 930,000 former construction workers remain unemployed, according to AGC, an increase of 489,000 from December 2019.

According to AGC’s 2021 Outlook, in conjunction with Sage Construction & Real Estate, 78 percent of contractors report having a a project canceled or postponed as a result of the pandemic.

In response, AGC officials continue to urge Congress to pursue federal infrastructure investment.

“As Washington officials pivot from providing pandemic relief to focusing on rebuilding the economy, infrastructure needs to be at the top of their agenda,” says Stephen Sandherr, CEO of AGC. “There is a real chance to come out of the pandemic with a stronger and more efficient economy if we can act now to rebuild aging and over-burdened infrastructure.”

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