AGC Reports 22,000 Construction Jobs Added Last Month
The sector's recovery has been uneven, according to the association’s economist, who said Congress’ bill to temporarily fund the Highway Trust Fund doesn’t help.
The U.S. construction industry added 22,000 jobs during July, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. AGC officials said uncertainty about federal funding for infrastructure and construction programs is one reason for the sector's uneven recovery.
"Construction employment and spending are both rising at a moderate year-over-year clip, but there have been some setbacks," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "While prospects for private construction remain largely favorable, inadequate public investment still threatens to keep too many workers idle."
According to the analysis, 6,041,000 workers were employed in July, the highest total since May 2009, while the industry's unemployment rate of 7.5 percent was the lowest July number in seven years. The sector's employment rose by 211,000, or 3.6 percent, from a year earlier. "While the preliminary spending numbers for June show all segments of construction retreated from May levels, looking at the first six months of 2014 as a whole in comparison with the same period a year ago provides a more credible picture of construction trends than does a single-month snapshot," Simonson said Aug. 1. "For the first half of 2014, private spending climbed at double-digit rates, while public construction shrank. I expect both patterns to continue."
A short-term fix passed by Congress for the Highway Trust Fund through May 2015 isn't enough, according to AGC, which urged Congress to pass a long-term surface transportation bill. "As welcome as the temporary highway funding measure is, it does nothing to address the revenue challenges that keep putting federal transportation funding levels at risk," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's CEO. "This is just another instance where Congressional delays are making it hard for employers to figure out how many people they should hire or how much equipment they should buy."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx also wants a long-term funding bill passed. "The good news is that Congress has avoided bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund. The bad news is that there is still no long-term certainty, and this latest band-aid expires right as the next construction season begins." Foxx said he will convene a nationwide virtual town hall on transportation this month to will keep working for a long-term solution."