WASHINGTON – “Nonresidential construction employment grew again in October, belying the notion that the housing slump is dragging down all construction,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Simonson was commenting on the November 2 payroll employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

“Although total construction employment fell by 5,000 in October, seasonally adjusted, and 106,000 or 1.4% compared to October 2006, all of those losses occurred in homebuilding,” Simonson said. “The BLS numbers show that over the past 12 months, employment in the three nonresidential categories – nonresidential building, specialty trades, plus heavy and civil engineering – climbed 42,000, or 1%. At the same time, employment in residential building and specialty trades dropped by 148,000 jobs or 4.4%.

“But that estimate greatly understates the actual difference,” Simonson continued. “Census Bureau figures for September show residential construction spending was down 16% from a year before and nonresidential was up almost 17%. It's likely that residential employment is actually down roughly 16%. That means about 400,000 ‘residential’ specialty trade contractors are now doing nonresidential electrical, plumbing and other work.

“The BLS report shows there is more growth ahead. Architectural and engineering employment rose 3.7% in the past 12 months, triple the growth in overall nonfarm employment,” Simonson said. “Their output will turn into construction jobs in the next several months, especially for energy, power and hospital projects.”

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