By Bill Clements
Dolan Media Newswires
Minneapolis — Construction employment in the United States fell by 11,000 from June to July, and the industry’s unemployment rate now stands at 17.3 percent, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America.
The U.S. unemployment rate in July remained at 9.5 percent, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Even with the stimulus investment in construction this year resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the latest drop in construction employment numbers represents the third month of construction declines.
AGC officials said this reflects overall tepid demand for private, local and state-paid construction projects.
“The fact that this industry continues to suffer from unemployment rates nearly double the national average is a reflection of how much demand for construction has cratered in little more than two years,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.
“Worse yet, there’s every indication that as the benefits of the stimulus fade the industry’s employment picture will get even worse.”
Sandherr said that since July 2008, construction employment has fallen by 1,591,000 jobs, a 22 percent drop.
“The sad fact is that construction workers have been forced to endure depressionlike conditions for far too long.”
Across the United States, heavy and civil engineering construction — the category that covers most workers in transportation, power, water and wastewater construction — lost 700 workers in July, meaning it has held roughly steady since last October.
That has happened because federal stimulus money has boosted construction in those categories, Sandherr said.
Nonresidential specialty trade contractors were a lone bright spot, gaining 8,000 workers in July.
Association officials said overall construction demand was unlikely to increase until at least 2011 and likely much later in many areas of the industry.