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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Construction Employment Outlook Update

by Calculated Risk on 4/06/2011 11:48:00 AM

By request, here is an update to a graph I posted just over a year ago on construction employment. Last year the outlook for construction employment was grim. This year will be a little better - but not much.

Construction Employment Click on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

This graph shows the number of construction payroll jobs (blue line), and the number of construction jobs as a percent of total non-farm payroll jobs (red line).

Construction employment is down 2.2 million jobs from the peak in April 2006, but up 16 thousand jobs so far this year.

Note: Unfortunately this graph is a combination of both residential and non-residential construction employment. The BLS only started breaking out residential construction employment fairly recently (residential building employees in 1985, and residential specialty trade contractors in 2001). Usually residential investment (and residential construction) lead the economy out of recession, and non-residential construction usually lags the economy. Because this graph is a blend, it masks the usually pickup in residential construction for previous recessions. Of course residential investment didn't lead the economy this time because of the huge overhang of existing housing units.

This table below shows the annual change in construction jobs (total, residential and non-residential).

 Annual Change in Payroll jobs (000s)
YearTotal Construction JobsResidential Construction JobsNon-Residential
March 20111688

In 2011, for the first time since 2005, I expect residential construction employment to increase - mostly because of multi-family construction. I also expect residential investment to make a small positive contribution to GDP growth this year - also for the first time since 2005.