Nearly 1M U.S. construction jobs lost in April
It marks the largest decrease in construction jobs since 1939.
The United States construction industry lost 975,000 jobs in April, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s the largest recorded decrease in construction jobs since 1939 — when the government first started tracking employment, according to ABC.
“The hope had been that construction activity would hold up well, given the industry’s classification as an essential industry in much of the nation and the presence of substantial backlog coming into the [COVID-19] crisis, which stood at 8.2 months in February,” ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu said in a statement. “But alas, in large measure, those hopes were not realized.” The Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) is a forward-looking national economic indicator that shows work construction companies are contracted to do in the future, measured in dollars.
Although construction remains an essential industry in the majority of U.S. states, there were 560,500 people who lost their nonresidential construction jobs. The greatest job losses occurred among nonresidential specialty trade contractors, nonresidential builders and heavy and civil engineers, according to ABC.
“The level of construction industry job loss in April easily surpassed that of the worst month sustained during the Great Recession, when 155,000 jobs were lost in March 2009,” Basu said. “The construction industry lost nearly a million jobs last month alone.”
This brought the construction unemployment rate to 16.6% in April, which is 11.9% higher than April 2019. But “because of technical reasons related to the BLS survey and a classification error in several responses, the unemployment rate is probably closer to 20%,” the ABC statement said.
ABC anticipates that May will present more job losses.
“Based on a combination of business confidence indicators, initial unemployment claims and other emerging data, May will represent another month of crushing construction employment loss,” Basu said. “Project postponements and cancelations are now commonplace, with construction backlog failing to be the protective shield that it normally is during the early stages of economy-wide recession.”
State employment numbers that would reflect Virginia-specific construction job losses won’t be released until May 22, an ABC spokesperson said.