Chart: Construction Employment Slows in August

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Originally Published by: NAHB — September 3, 2021
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Total payroll employment rose by 235,000 in August, marking a significant slowdown from the previous month. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.2% in August, the lowest point during the pandemic.

In August, residential construction employment rose by 17,400, while non-residential construction lost 20,300 positions, reflecting declines in builders (-2,800), nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-9,200) and heavy and civil engineering construction (-8,300). Currently, residential construction employment exceeds its level in February 2020, while only 52% of nonresidential construction jobs lost in March and April have been recovered. Aggregate construction industry (both residential and non-residential) employment totaled 7.4 million in August.

In August, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 235,000, reported in the Employment Situation Summary. It is the smallest monthly gain in the past seven months. The previous two months’ gains were revised higher. The June increase was revised up by 24,000, while the July increase was revised up by 110,000 from 943,000 to 1,053,000.

During the first eight months of 2021, 4.7 million jobs have been created and monthly employment growth has averaged 586,000 per month. Total nonfarm employment in August 2021 is still 5.3 million lower than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020 level.


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Meanwhile, the unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage points to 5.2% in August. It was 9.6 percentage points lower than its recent high of 14.8% in April 2020 and 1.7 percentage points higher than the rate in February 2020. The August decrease in the unemployment rate reflected the decrease in the number of persons unemployed (-318,000) and the increase in the number of persons employed (509,000). The labor force participation rate, the proportion of the population either looking for a job or already with a job, was at 61.7% in August.

In August, professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, educational services, and other services had job gains, while employment in retail trade declined over the month. Employment in leisure and hospitality was unchanged in August, after increasing for six straight months.

Employment in the overall construction sector was little changed (-3,000) in August, following a revised increase of 6,000 jobs in July. Over the month, residential construction added 17,400 jobs, while nonresidential construction employment lost 20,300 jobs.

Residential construction employment now stands at 3.1 million in August, broken down as 881,000 builders and 2.2 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction was 10,550 a month. Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers added 153,300 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 1,076,700 positions.

In August, the unemployment rate for construction workers declined by 1.4 percentage points to 5.9% 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.