Construction Unemployment Nears 20 Percent

Despite a slow down in the number of construction workers losing jobs in November, 19 percent of the nation’s construction workers are now unemployed, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. The figures show that unemployment rates within the construction industry remain significantly higher than any other sector of the economy.

“The fact fewer people lost their jobs in construction this month is little solace for the one in five construction workers out of a job today,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “This is yet another reminder that our economy will not be able to fully recover until we find new ways to drive demand for construction services.”

Simonson said new November employment data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed 27,000 construction workers lost their jobs in November, compared to 62,000 in October. The decline in construction layoffs was likely caused by better-than-expected work conditions in November, given the unusually good weather much of the country experienced then, Simonson said.

Among construction workers losing jobs in November, 86 percent (23,900) worked in nonresidential construction while 3,800 worked in residential construction, Simonson said. He added that, since January 2008, residential and nonresidential construction employment has declined by more than 1.7 million.

“With construction unemployment nearing 20 percent, our economy can’t afford the massive cuts in infrastructure spending scheduled for next year,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer, noting federal highway and transit investments are set to fall by more than $15 billion, nearly 20 percent, in 2010 compared to 2009.

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