That headline is mostly true. The overall construction employment numbers nationally went up 7,000 jobs in September—except for “nonresidential building,” which was continuing its downward trajectory.

“Nonresidential Building” means a lot of things, structure categories such as warehouse, industrial, office, retail, entertainment, hotels, restaurants, educational, health, etc. That category of construction has been struggling with several issues, not the least of which is the ongoing assault on retail stores by online sellers, and fear of international trade decline driven by tariffs or recessions in other parts of the world.

This category might be to blame for the drop of 1,700 jobs from the California construction labor force in August, the most current month available from the state Employment Development Department (EDD). The total California construction employment number—900,500—is still four percent below the 2006 peak of 942,000 workers. That number has always been suspect because EDD never captures the thousands of undocumented workers in our industry.

The national construction industry added 7,000 net new jobs in September, announced October 14th by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). On a year-over-year basis, our industry expanded by 156,000 jobs, an increase of 2.1 percent. Utilities, roads, bridges and other infrastructure employment increased by 3,800 in September and is up by 96,300 net jobs during the last 12 months.

BLS data comes from two monthly surveys. The household survey measures labor force status, including unemployment by demographic characteristics, while the establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry.

The national construction unemployment rate stood at 3.2 percent in September, down 0.9 percentage points from the same time last year. Across all industries, the jobless rate was 3.5 percent in September, 0.2 percentage points lower than the previous month and the lowest recorded rate since December 1969. Wage growth, which came in at 2.9 percent, was the lowest increase since July 2018, but, still a wage increase.

The total number of net new jobs created was 136,000, according to the BLS. National media decried the number, but economists had a different story. Anirban Basau, keynote speaker for the October 22nd Marcum Construction Summit in Irvine, called it a “nearly perfect jobs report.”

“In total, this data release suggests that the current U.S. economic expansion will persist for the foreseeable future, as ongoing job growth propels consumer spending and as surprisingly modest inflationary pressures keep interest rate increases at bay,”Basu added.

By Ray Baca, Executive Director, Email: [email protected]