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AGC Data DIGest: June 24-July 8, 2024

Employment, wages rise, unemployment hits record low for June; spending, job openings dip in May

Construction employment, seasonally adjusted, totaled 8,245,000 in June, a gain of 27,000 from May and 235,000 (2.9%) year-over-year (y/y), according to AGC’s analysis of data the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) posted on Friday. The y/y growth rate outpaced the 1.7% increase in total nonfarm payroll employment. Residential construction employment (at residential building and specialty contractors) rose by 5,500 in June and 56,800 (1.7%) y/y. Nonresidential construction employment (at building, specialty trade, and heavy and civil engineering construction firms) increased by 21,200 for the month and 177,700 (3.8%) y/y. Labor costs for nonresidential firms outpaced other sectors: seasonally adjusted average hourly earnings (AHE) for production and nonsupervisory employees rose 4.0% y/y for the total private sector, 4.5% for all construction (i.e., most craft and office workers), 6.1% (through May) for nonresidential building firms, and 6.4% (through May) for heavy and civil firms. The industry unemployment rate fell from 3.6% to 3.3% y/y and the number of unemployed jobseekers with construction experience totaled 345,000, not seasonally adjusted, a decrease of 36,000 (-9.4%) y/y. Both the number and rate were the lowest June figures in the 25-year history of the data.

Construction spending (not adjusted for inflation) totaled $2.14 trillion in May at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, down 0.1% from the upwardly revised April rate but up 6.4% y/y, the Census Bureau reported on July 1, as an 0.5% increase in public spending was offset by declines in  private nonresidential (-0.2%) and nonresidential spending (-0.3%). Following years of requests from AGC and others, the bureau began posting estimates for data centers (with monthly estimates back to 2014), though the figures are still included in the office total and visible only under Historical Data (Private). That series shows data center outlays rose for the 12th consecutive month, by 1.6%, and by 69% y/y, while other private office spending fell 3.2% and 18%, respectively. The bureau also posted its usual annual revision of past years’ monthly data, along with detailed annual totals for 2023, including a breakout of annual spending on private power, which showed spending on wind projects fell 10% in 2023, while other (solar, dry-waste, geothermal) jumped 26%. 

There were 339,000 job openings in construction, seasonally adjusted, at the end of May, a decline of 38,000 (-10%) y/y, BLS reported on Tuesday. Hires for the full month totaled 383,000, a gain of 10,000 (2.6%). Layoffs totaled 147, 000, an increase of 14,000 (10%), though the rate (1.8% of employees) remained low by historical standards.

Seasonally adjusted construction employment rose y/y from May 2023 to May 2024 in 39 states, declined in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in New Mexico, according to AGC’s analysis of data BLS posted on June 25. The largest gains again occurred in Texas (35,000 or 4.7%) and Florida (27,700, 4.4%), followed by California (17,000, 1.9%). The steepest percentage increase again occurred in Alaska (20%, 3,400 jobs), followed by Hawaii (10%, 3,800) and Michigan (8.4%, 15,900). Maryland lost the most jobs (-5,000, -3.1%), followed by Washington (-3,900, -1.7%) and Pennsylvania (-3,000, -1.2%). The largest percentage loss was in D.C. (-3.3%, -500 jobs), followed by Maryland and Washington. For the month, construction employment rose in 26 states, declined in 22 states and D.C., and was unchanged in Rhode Island and North Dakota. Ohio added the largest number and percentage of jobs over the month (7,000 jobs, 3.0%). Other states with large monthly increases job include Florida (5,500, 0.8%), Texas (5,500, 0.6%), and New York (5,200, 1.3%). Other states with large percentage gains include Alaska (1.5%, 300 jobs), New York, and Hawaii (500, 1.2%). Tennessee lost the most jobs from April to May (-1,700, 1.1%), followed by Wisconsin (-1,500, -1.1%). Maine lost the highest percentage of jobs (-2.1%), followed by Wyoming (-1.7%, -400 jobs). (For D.C., Delaware, and Hawaii, BLS posts combined totals for mining, logging, and construction; AGC treats these totals as construction-only.)  

Construction employment, not seasonally adjusted, rose year-over-year (y/y) from May 2023 to May 2024 in 225 (63%) of the 358 metro areas (including divisions of larger metros) for which BLS posts construction employment data, fell in 83 (23%), and was unchanged in 50, according to an analysis AGC released on Tuesday. (For most metros, BLS posts only combined totals for mining, logging, and construction; AGC treats these totals as construction-only.) Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land added the largest number of jobs (8,400 construction jobs, 4%, while Fairbanks, Alaska again had the largest percentage gain (23%, 600 construction jobs). The largest job loss again occurred in Denver-Aurora-Lakewood (-4,400 combined jobs, -4%), while the largest percentage decrease again occurred in Augusta-Richmond County, Ga.-S.C. (-12%, -1,900 combined jobs).