Archive for December, 2010

(from the Associated General Contractors of America)

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 39,000, seasonally adjusted, in November, and private-sector payrolls grew by 50,000, the 11th straight monthly increase, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Friday. Construction employment, in contrast, remained in near-recession condition. It slipped to 5,615,000, 5,000 below a downwardly revised October total; 117,000 (2.0%) below the November 2009 total; and 2.1 million (27%) below the August 2006 peak of 7,725,000. Of the five BLS categories of construction employment, only heavy and civil engineering construction was higher than a year ago, gaining 0.2% for the month and 2.9% year-over-year with the help of federal spending on stimulus, base realignment and Gulf Coast hurricane protection projects. Employment among nonresidential building fell minimally in November and 1.1% over 12 months; nonresidential specialty trade contractors, -0.4% and -2.6%, respectively; residential specialty trade contractors, 0 and -3.0%; and residential building, +0.1% and -5.2%. Architectural and engineering services employment, a harbinger of future demand for construction, rose 0.2% for the month but slipped 0.9% year-over-year. The unemployment rate in construction was 18.8% in November, not seasonally adjusted, down slightly from 19.4% a year earlier but still the highest of any industry and double the all-industry rate of 9.3% (9.8%, seasonally adjusted; BLS does not publish seasonally adjusted industry rates). Average hourly earnings in construction rose 4 cents for the month and just 23 cents (0.9%) compared with November 2009, to $25.30, seasonally adjusted.

Among more than 18,000 U.S. employers who were asked about hiring plans in the first quarter of 2011, 14% plan to increase their workforce and 10% plan to cut it for a net employment outlook of 4%, not seasonally adjusted (9%, seasonally adjusted), Manpower Inc. reported on Tuesday. That was an improvement from the seasonally adjusted 5% or 6% in each of the last four quarters. Construction was the only industry out of 13 with a negative net outlook: -9% (10% of respondents expect to increase headcounts, 19% to cut them), compared with -8% in the fourth quarter outlook survey.

Employment rose in 182 metropolitan areas from October 2009 to October 2010, fell in 178, and was unchanged in 10, BLS reported on Tuesday. An analysis by AGC of BLS construction job data for 337 metro areas showed 67 with increases during the past year (the largest number of 12-month gains in two years), 224 with decreases, and 46 unchanged. BLS combines mining and logging with construction in some areas to avoid disclosing data about industries with few employers. Phoenix added the most construction jobs (4,100 jobs, 5%). Hanford-Corcoran, California, added the highest percentage (44%, 400 combined jobs). Other areas adding jobs included Kansas City, Kansas (1,700 combined jobs, 9%); Columbus, Ohio (1,700 combined jobs, 6%); Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Maryland (1,500 combined jobs, 5%); and Greeley, Colorado (1,400 combined jobs, 16%). The Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metro division of the Chicago region lost the most construction jobs (-19,200 jobs, -14%). Napa, Calif.(-1,100 jobs, -37%) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large declines in construction employment included Las Vegas-Paradise (-12,200 jobs, -21%); the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale division (8,600 jobs, -8%); Northern Virginia (-8,000 combined jobs, -12%); the Philadelphia division (-6,500 combined jobs, -10%); and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (-6,500 jobs, -10%).

The number of job openings in October was 3.4 million, seasonally adjusted, up from 3.0 million in September, and an increase of 1.0 million (44%) from the trough in July 2009, BLS reported on Tuesday. But seasonally adjusted job openings in construction slumped to 56,000 in October, down from 71,000 in September and 65,000 in October 2009. The rate of hires in construction rose to 6.6 per 100 employees from 6.0 in September and 5.7 in October 2009. The rate of total separations in construction (quits, layoffs and discharges, and retirements and other) was 6.2 in October 2010, 5.9 in September and 6.6 in October 2009.

Bid prices for construction were flat from July to October, consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall ( reported on Thursday. Out of 13 cities,“Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. experienced some quarterly inflation with overall construction costs rising by nearly 0.3%. Construction costs declined in Boston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle markets, with deflation of between 0.1% and 0.4%.”

Materials costs for construction appear headed higher. Copper futures on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange closed on Tuesday at the highest level since the record set in May 2008: $4.01 per pound, 26% higher than a year ago. The national average retail price of on-highway diesel fuel was $3.20 per gallon on Monday, the highest weekly level in two years and 15% above the year-ago mark, the Energy Information reported. Diesel fuel will average $3.23 in 2011, up 8.1% from an average of $2.98 in 2010, the agency said in its Short-Term Energy Outlook it released on Tuesday. Purchasing managers at manufacturing firms listed the following items used in construction products as having risen in price in November, the Institute for Supply Management reported on December 1: aluminum, copper, plastic resins, titanium dioxide, stainless steel and steel (steel was also listed as down in price).

New orders from U.S. manufacturers (other than semiconductor manufacturers) fell 0.9% in October, seasonally adjusted, after three consecutively monthly gains, the Census Bureau reported on Friday. Orders for construction materials and supplies were flat in October. Orders for construction machinery rose 3.5%.

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