After a strong gain, monthly growth in payroll employment slowed sharply in February. Total payroll employment increased by 20,000 in February, while the unemployment rate decreased to 3.8%.
Residential construction employment decreased by 10,900 in February, after the 22,500 increase in January and the decline of 900 jobs in December 2018 due to the downwardly revised December data. The total construction industry (both residential and nonresidential) lost 31,000 jobs in February.
According to the Employment Situation Summary for February released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 20,000. It was the fewest monthly gain since September 2017 when total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 18,000. The January increase was revised up to 311,000 jobs, from its original estimate of a 304,000 increase. Over the past twelve months, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 2.5 million with the average monthly growth of 209,000.
In February, the unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 3.8%. The number of persons employed increased by 255,000 in February while the number of persons unemployed decreased by 300,000. Among the unemployed, the number of persons who are on temporary layoff decreased by 117,000, following the monthly gain of 175,000 in January. The decrease in the number of persons unemployed reflected the return of furloughed federal workers affected by the partial government shutdown. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate, the proportion of the population either looking for a job or already with a job, was unchanged at 63.2% in February.
Monthly employment data released by the BLS Establishment Survey indicates that employment in the overall construction sector decreased by 31,000 in February. The number of residential construction jobs declined by 10,900 in February. It was the second decline within the past three months. The monthly employment in residential construction declined by 900 in December 2018 based on the downwardly revised December data.
Residential construction employment now stands at 2.9 million in February, broken down as 831,000 builders and 2.1 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction is 5,850 a month. Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers added 90,700 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 900,600 positions.
In February, the unemployment rate for construction workers decreased to 4.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis, from the 4.7% in January. The unemployment rate for the construction sector has been trending downwards since February 2010 and remains historically low.