Construction Workers Account for Almost One-Third of All Lost Jobs in August

Construction workers nationwide continued to bear the brunt of the recession, accounting for almost one-third of jobs lost in August, according to an analysis of new construction employment figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The new figures underscore how the current economic climate is having a disproportionate impact on the construction industry, noted Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America.

“While most Americans are experiencing a recession, construction workers are being forced to cope with depression-like conditions,” Simonson said. “There’s nothing good in today’s report for the nation’s construction workers.”

Simonson noted that construction employment nationwide declined by 65,000 this August. He added that construction workers accounted for 30 percent of the total nonfarm job losses reported for the month, while the industry only accounts for 5 percent of the work force.

The new federal figures also show that since the beginning of the recession, 1.4 million construction workers have lost their jobs. As a result, Simonson noted, the unemployment rate among construction workers is now 16.5 percent, which is not seasonally adjusted, while the overall unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, also not seasonally adjusted.

The August numbers also show that nonresidential construction continues to account for a greater share of the industry’s job losses as compared to residential construction. Nearly 43,000 nonresidential construction workers lost their jobs, while 22,600 residential construction workers were laid off in August. The federal government noted, for example, that nonresidential construction has accounted for more job losses in 2009 than residential construction, whereas in 2008, residential construction saw the largest decline in employment.

“It is time for federal agencies to convert stimulus project announcements into actual contracts and construction activity,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Congress also needs to look for ways to encourage the kind of sustained private economic growth that will generate significant new construction activity.”

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