Construction employment increased in December by 17,000, driven by gains in nonresidential construction employment, according to an Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) analysis of new federal employment data. Association officials said that construction employment likely benefitted from unseasonably warm weather across much of the country that extended the construction season. It may also be due to increased optimism, as reported by NEMA’s EBCI.

“Nonresidential construction is clearly driving last month’s employment gains,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “But it is too early to tell whether those gains came because the weather was good enough for crews to keep working well into December or because demand is truly rebounding.”

Total construction employment now stands at 5.5 million or 0.3 percent higher than a month earlier and 46,000 (0.8 percent) higher than in December 2010, the economist said. He added that the latest employment figures continue a months-long trend of slight gains followed by slight declines in construction employment and that overall construction employment is still far below its peak level of 7.7 million in April 2006.

The nonresidential construction sector added 17,200 construction jobs in December, Simonson said. He said nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 20,200 positions, while heavy and civil engineering construction firms, which perform the majority of publicly funded construction work, shed 300 jobs. Nonresidential building contractors shed 2,700 jobs in December.

Residential construction lost 400 total jobs, as the residential specialty trade contractors shed 2,900 jobs and residential builders added only 2,500 positions in December.

For more economic information, see the Construction Outlook in the January 2012 issue of Electrical Contractor.