March Jobs Report Shows Consistent, Robust Construction Job Growth

Group of diverse young construction workers discuss progress on a job site

The March 2024 jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates continued positive trends in the construction industry, with employment in the industry remaining consistent and robust. In February, construction employment added 23,000 jobs, in line with the average monthly gain of 18,000 over the previous 12 months. 

  • Overall, construction employment increased by 23,000 jobs, which is roughly the same as in February 2023 and consistent with the gains seen over the last three months.
  • Unemployment among construction and extraction occupations remained relatively stable year-over-year (7.3% in February 2023; 7.8% in February 2024).
  • Nonresidential building construction saw a 4.3% increase in employment from January 2024 to February 2024.
  • Heavy and civil engineering construction added 13,000 jobs in February, a significant 12.5% increase in employment from January 2024 to February 2024.
  • Nonresidential specialty trade contractors also saw a 7.4% increase in employment.
  • The percentage of women in the construction workforce remained steady at 14.3% over the previous three months.
  • Average hourly earnings in construction increased from $35.86 in February 2023 to $37.56 in February 2024, with weekly earnings rising from $1,398.54 to $1,459.92.
  • Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 275,000 in February, and the unemployment rate increased to 3.9%.
  • In addition to the 23,000 new construction jobs, gains also occurred in other sectors, including health care (67,000), government (52,000), food services and drinking places (42,000), social assistance (24,000) and transportation and warehousing (20,000). 
  • The labor force participation rate remained at 62.5% for the third consecutive month.
  • The number of people not in the labor force who want a job was little changed since last month, remaining at 5.7 million.
  • Employees working part-time for economic reasons –– e.g., reduced hours, inability to find full-time work –– stayed steady at 4.4 million.

Putting the Numbers in Context

Analysts had predicted job gains around 200,000, but the actual numbers exceeded expectations, pointing to a still-vibrant labor market. Despite the increase in the unemployment rate, the overall economic picture remains strong. This morning, CNN Business and Politics Correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich explained that the United States is on a streak of sub-4% unemployment not seen since the Nixon administration. She added that despite the revisions to January numbers (353,000 revised down to 229,000), the job market remains strong and that the Federal Reserve hopes to see numbers closer to the revised number so they will feel more confident when considering rate cuts. Yurkevich also noted that cooling wage growth is “not good news for the average worker” but is a good sign for the Fed.

Yesterday in his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said it is likely the Fed will cut interest rates this year and that the marker for when that will happen is when inflation “is moving sustainably at 2%.” Powell’s statements have garnered attention, with investors optimistic about the possibility of rate cuts. However, he continues to emphasize that the Fed will consider rate cuts only if the economic data, particularly the jobs numbers, continue to indicate steady growth.

The Bureau’s March 2024 jobs report paints a positive picture for the construction industry and the economy as a whole. With continued job growth and strong employment numbers, the outlook remains optimistic. However, economists are cautious about potential challenges ahead, including inflation, interest rates and economic uncertainty.