Residential Construction Employment Remains Unchanged in February


Total payroll employment rose by 379,000 and the unemployment rate declined to 6.2% in February. The labor market is showing signs of recovery as some states start to ease business restrictions gradually.

Employment in construction declined in February due to the severe winter weather in many states. Non-residential construction lost 60,800 positions in February, reflecting declines in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-37,000) and heavy and civil engineering construction (-21,000). Meanwhile, residential construction employment was unchanged virtually (-200), after increasing for nine straight months. Currently, job gains in residential construction offset all the jobs lost in March and April, while non-residential construction is still missing 316,100 jobs that lost in the past 12 months. Aggregate construction industry (both residential and non-residential) employment totaled 7.3 million in February.

In February, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 379,000, reported in the Employment Situation Summary. It marks the second consecutive gain after a decline of 306,000 jobs in December. The monthly change in payroll employment for January was revised up by 117,000, from its original estimate of a 49,000 increase.

The economy lost 22.7 million jobs in March, April and December of 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past ten months, 13.2 million jobs have been recovered, however, total nonfarm employment in February is still 9.5 million lower than its February 2020 level, a year ago.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate changed little, at 6.2% in February. It was 8.6 percentage points lower than its recent high of 14.8% in April and 1.8 percentage points higher than the rate in February 2020. The labor force participation rate, the proportion of the population either looking for a job or already with a job, remained at 61.4% in February.

In February, employments in leisure and hospitality increased by 355,000, the most gain among all the major industries. Professional and business services, health care and social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing had job gains as well, while employments in government, construction, and mining and logging declined.

Additionally, according to the Household Survey supplemental data, which come from questions added to the Current Population Survey (CPS) since May 2020, 22.7% of employed persons teleworked or worked at home in the last 4 weeks specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic in February, down from 23.2% in January. In February, 13.3 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, 10.5% received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked.

Employment in the overall construction sector shed 61,000 jobs in February, following nine consecutive months of positive monthly changes. Residential construction lost 200 jobs in February, after adding 1,700 jobs in January. About 477,400 residential construction jobs were created in the past nine months, offsetting all the 468,900 residential construction jobs lost in March and April due to the pandemic.

Residential construction employment now stands at 3.0 million in February, broken down as 858,000 builders and 2.1 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction was 13,950 a month. Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers added 8,300 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 1,007,100 positions.

In February, the unemployment rate for construction workers declined to 7.1% on a seasonally adjusted basis. After reaching 14.1% in April due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate for construction workers has been trending lower for the past ten months.

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