Construction jobs across the country increased by 61,000 jobs in February, according to new data compiled by the Associated General Contractors of America.
Association officials said this is the highest level of job growth since June 2008. However, they cautioned that the Trump administration’s newly imposed steel and aluminum tariffs have the potential to undermine future employment growth for the industry.
“Construction industry employment has accelerated over the past four months, and industry pay rates are now more than 10 percent higher than the private-sector average,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.
Simonson added that the tariffs on steel and aluminum will add to rapidly rising materials costs.
“The combination of higher materials and labor costs could push some contractors out of business and make many projects unaffordable,” he said.
Construction employment totaled 7.2 million jobs in February, which was a gain of 61,000 for the month and 254,000, or 3.7 percent, over 12 months.
According to Simonson, the year-over-year growth rate in industry jobs was more than double the 1.6 percent rise in total nonfarm payroll employment.
Additionally, residential construction and nonresidential construction saw an increase of jobs. Residential added 25,400 jobs in February and 107,500 jobs, or 4 percent, over the past 12 months. Nonresidential increased by 35,400 jobs in February and 147,200 positions, or 3.5 percent, over 12 months.
While the industry added over a quarter-million jobs during the past year, the number of unemployed job seekers with recent construction experience fell by 49,000 between February 2017 and February 2018.
Simonson said this suggests that most of the new hires at construction firms are from other sectors of the economy or new to the labor force.