March positive month for construction employment

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Payroll employment in the construction industry unexpectedly rose in March by 15,000 – the first gain since June 2007. 

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, hailed the increase shared among three nonresidential categories – building construction, specialty trade contractors and heavy/civil engineering construction – but cautioned it may not be sustained.

He said weather-related factors may account for the apparent month-over-month recovery.

“Both nonresidential and residential construction employment remain lower than in January, suggesting some of the pickup may have been a short-term rebound from exceptionally severe weather in February,” Simonson said.

Construction unemployment was at 24.9 percent in March, down slightly from February’s 27.1 percent level.

If there’s good news, it’s that the construction industry continues to outpace the overall economy in wage rates.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed hourly earnings for all workers in construction in March averaged $25.27, seasonally adjusted, 12.5 percent higher than the average for all nonfarm payroll workers.