May Employment Numbers Positive, but Construction Takes a Hit

By Richard Branch, Chief Economist, Dodge Data & Analytics

HAMILTON, NJ - JUNE 4, 2021 -- The U.S. economy added 589,000 new jobs in May, a solid improvement over the 278,000 jobs added in April, and the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.8%. Easing of state and local Covid-19 restrictions is helping the economy make steady improvement. Most new jobs came from leisure and hospitality (which added 292,000 jobs), education, and healthcare.



The construction sector, however, shed 20,000 jobs — the second consecutive monthly decline. Employment in building construction grew by 4,900 positions due to gains in single family housing, but specialty trade jobs fell by 19,300 and heavy and civil engineering jobs dropped by 5,500.

The disappointing construction jobs figure stands in stark contrast to the dollar value of projects that Dodge Data & Analytics tracks in the early stages of planning, which are at levels not seen in nearly 13 years. Today’s jobs figure is a reminder that the hope that construction starts will post aggressive growth in the second half of the year must be tempered as scarce and higher prices for construction materials lead to further delays in getting projects underway and completed.

The recovery in the construction sector will be jagged through the remainder of 2021, but confidence is growing that 2022 will bring a healthy pickup in construction activity.




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