Residential Construction Is Recovering Faster Than Non-Residential Construction


Job gains slowed sharply in November as the COVID-19 surge continued. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 245,000 in November, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.7%.

Total construction industry (both residential and non-residential) employment totaled 7.4 million in November. Residential construction employment rose by 15,400 in November to 2.9 million. In the past seven months, job gains in residential construction offset 96% of the jobs lost in March and April, surpassing the 58% recovery in non-residential construction.

In November, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 245,000, reported in the Employment Situation Summary. It marks the seventh consecutive month of increases. After four consecutive months above one-million gain, job gains decelerated in the past three months. The November gain was the smallest increase since the labor market started to recover in May. The September increase was revised up by 39,000 from 672,000 to 711,000, and the October increase was revised down by 28,000 from 638,000 to 610,000.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy lost 22.2 million jobs in March and April. Since May, 12.3 million jobs have been created. In November, total nonfarm employment was 9.8 million lower than its February level.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate edged down to 6.7% in November. This was 8.0 percentage points lower than its recent high of 14.7% in April and 3.2 percentage points higher than the rate in February. The number of unemployed persons declined by 0.3 million to 10.7 million.

The labor force participation rate, the proportion of the population either looking for a job or already with a job, decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 61.5% in November. It was 1.9 percentage points lower than its February level. In November, the number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job increased by 448,000 to 7.1 million. It was 2.2 million higher than in February. Notice that these individuals were not counted as unemployed.

Additionally, according to the Household Survey supplemental data, which come from questions added to the Current Population Survey (CPS) since May 2020, about 3.9 million persons who were not in the labor force in November were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic. It was up from 3.6 million in October. In November, 21.8% of employed persons teleworked or worked at home in the last 4 weeks specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic, up from 21.2% in October. And, 14.8 million persons reported that they had been unable to work at some point in the last 4 weeks because their employer closed or lost business due to the coronavirus pandemic. Among those who reported that they were unable to work due to pandemic related closures, 13.7% received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked.

Employment in the overall construction sector increased by 27,000 in November, after a revised increase of 72,000 jobs in October. The number of residential construction jobs rose by 15,400 in November, after an increase of 20,600 in October. Job gains in residential construction have slowed since May. In the past seven months, 438,100 residential construction jobs were created, offsetting about 96% of the 456,800 residential construction jobs lost in March and April due to the pandemic.

Residential construction employment now stands at 2.9 million in November, broken down as 835,000 builders and 2.1 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction was 35,133 a month. Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers added 26,000 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 964,900 positions.

In November, the unemployment rate for construction workers dropped to 8.0% on a seasonally adjusted basis, from 8.2% in October. After hit 16.1% in April due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate for construction workers has been trending downward for the past seven months.

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