Construction Jobs Are Rebounding -- Except for Housing

The long-awaited September employment data, postponed because of the government shutdown, was finally released this past Tuesday. Though the overall jobs created for the month fell short of market expectations, the unemployment rate ticked downward a bit, to 7.2% from the prior 7.3%.

There was a surprising bright spot in the data: The construction industry added 20,000 jobs in September, a big improvement from the stagnant job growth of the previous six months.

While this is definitely good news for the economy, only about 25% of the added jobs were in the residential construction sector -- not great news for the housing industry.

Housing: Where are the jobs?
The Wall Street Journal notes that only 5,400 of the 20,000 construction jobs were in residential construction, which is actually less than the monthly averages over the past six months. Interestingly, single-family construction rose by 1.6% in August from July, and residential construction, which includes multi-families, is up nearly 19% from one year ago. Why, then, aren't there more jobs being filled?

One reason given is that homebuilders are reluctant to hire more workers until they're sure that the housing recovery has legs. At the moment, builders don't have enough confidence in the market to do anything more than work their current crews harder to keep up. According to the National Association of Home Builders, builder confidence in the new, single-family market sagged in October.  

Another problem concerns a shortage of skilled labor to fill available jobs. The inability of builders to find workers has increased the time necessary to complete a home, in addition to raising costs to cover higher wages and subcontractor rates. In congressional testimony this past June, the NAHB noted that a survey of its members revealed a chronic worker shortage since the previous June, and that nearly 46% had projects delayed as a result.

Cause for hope
Still, the news isn't all bad. Much of the drop in builder confidence was due to the fiscal stalemate in Washington in the first part of October, and sales of new homes rebounded nicely in August, after falling in July.

Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show improvement in the number of residential building jobs from August to September, particularly in the residential specialty trade contractors. More importantly, the number of jobs in both categories have been rising steadily -- albeit slowly -- over the past year.

In its October outlook, Freddie Mac notes that construction employment levels are 1 million to 2 million jobs shy of what's needed for economic growth, and that it will probably take more than two years to reach a full recovery. Until then, all gains in housing jobs, no matter how slight, will move the economy ever closer to achieving its full potential.

The best investment advice
The best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich" names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 26, 2013, at 8:54 PM, Beesnest wrote:

    I work in the construction industry. Construction employment always rises in September. If you work in industrial construction, Sept through Dec is when all the power plants shut down for maintenance. They do it in the spring and fall when electricity usage is at its lowest. There is always a peak in construction employment during these times. It's not at all unusual for a plant to employ up to 2K construction workers during the 8-12 week maintenance shut downs.

Add your comment.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2700623, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/26/2016 4:57:14 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,094.83 -166.62 -0.91%
S&P 500 2,146.10 -18.59 -0.86%
NASD 5,257.49 -48.26 -0.91%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes