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Construction employment improves in May

June 07, 2013|By Alejandro Lazo
  • A home under construction in Rancho Santa Fe.
A home under construction in Rancho Santa Fe. (Sam Hodgson / Bloomberg )

Friday’s jobs report brought some moderately good news for the housing sector.

Construction employment increased by 7,000 last month, pushing down the sector’s unemployment rate to 10.8%, the lowest level for the month of May in five years.

With 189,000 jobs added, or 3.4% growth, there are now more people working in the construction industry since August 2009, with a total of 5,804,000 workers employed.

Southern California's housing recovery: An interactive map

While the gains in construction employment are modest, many contractors remain concerned about a shortage of labor, particularly in the hardest-hit markets. With home prices still down from their boom-era levels, wages have not recovered. And many workers have gone on to find other careers.

“Formerly unemployed construction workers are finding jobs in other sectors, retiring or going back to school,” Ken Simonson, chief economist for the trade group Associated General Contractors of America, said in a news release. “These conditions may lead abruptly to worker shortages in parts of the industry, such as welders and pipefitters.”

Jed Kolko, chief economist for the real estate website, found several other positive signs for housing. With more young adults back to work, housing demand should improve. And job growth in many of the hardest-hit metro areas has improved, he wrote in an emailed analysis.

“Hard to find bad news for housing in this report,” Kolko wrote.

He was skeptical of a construction worker shortage, writing that “evidence is mixed.” He noted that the hours of workers have increased but that the unemployment rate remains quite high.

“There are a lot of construction workers who want a job but don’t have one,” he wrote.


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