Job gains slowed for the second straight month amid the resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Total payroll employment rose by 194,000 in September and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.8%. For the coming months, job gains are expected to accelerate as COVID-19 cases began to subside.
Despite the slowdown in total nonfarm payroll employment, aggregate construction industry (both residential and non-residential) added 22,000 jobs in September and totaled 7.4 million. Both residential construction (+3,400) and non-residential construction (+18,600) had job gains over the month. Currently, residential construction employment exceeds its level in February 2020, while only 56% of nonresidential construction jobs lost in March and April have been recovered.
In September, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 194,000, reported in the Employment Situation Summary. It is the smallest monthly gain in the past nine months of 2021. The previous two months’ gains were revised higher. The July increase was revised up by 38,000, while the August increase was revised up by 131,000 from 235,000 to 366,000.
During the first nine months of 2021, 5.1 million jobs have been created and monthly employment growth has averaged 561,000 per month. Total nonfarm employment in September 2021 is still 5.0 million lower than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020 level.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate declined by 0.4 percentage points to 4.8% in September, the lowest rate since the pandemic. It was 10.0 percentage points lower than its recent high of 14.8% in April 2020 and 1.3 percentage points higher than the rate in February 2020. The September decrease in the unemployment rate reflected a decrease in the number of persons unemployed (-710,000) and a large increase in the number of persons employed (526,000). The labor force participation rate, the proportion of the population either looking for a job or already with a job, decreased 0.1 percentage points to 61.6% in September.
Leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, and transportation and warehousing had job gains in September, while employment in local government education declined by 144,000 and employment in state government education declined by 17,000 over the month.
Employment in the overall construction sector rose by 22,000 in September. Over the month, residential construction added 3,400 jobs, and nonresidential construction employment rose by 18,600 jobs after five consecutive months of declines.
Residential construction employment now stands at 3.1 million in September, broken down as 882,000 builders and 2.2 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction was 6,033 a month. Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers added 136,300 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 1,078,400 positions.
In September, the unemployment rate for construction workers declined by 0.1 percentage points to 5.8% on a seasonally adjusted basis. The unemployment rate for construction workers has been trending lower, after reaching 14.1% in April 2020, due to the housing demand impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.