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Construction employment hits 15-month high in July

August 5, 2011 | 10:27 am

Construction Another reason to not declare the end of the world as we know it, yet: Construction employment climbed last month, hitting a 15-month high, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. The construction sector has been one of the hardest hit in the economic downturn, especially in states such as California and Nevada, where employment remains stagnant.

The nation added 8,000 construction jobs in July, and the industry unemployment rate fell to 13.6%, from 17.3% a year earlier, the association said. The strength came from employment in nonresidential building and specialty trade, which added 10,200 jobs for the month, signaling that factories, power projects and hospitals are being built, the association said.

But the job gains in construction paled in comparison with gains in other sectors, including manufacturing, which added 24,000 jobs, and retail trade, which added 26,000. Construction employment in July, at 5.5 million, was 28% lower than it was at the peak level in April 2006.

Many construction workers have sought work in other fields, often through retraining. But much of the retraining money available through the stimulus bill have ended, and there still aren't enough jobs to support every construction worker who wants to transition to a new field, said Sandy Harmsen, executive director of the San Bernardino County Workforce Investment Board.

The government sector shed jobs in July, and additional cuts in government spending will likely halt construction projects such as highways and military bases, said Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America.

Heavy and civil engineering construction, which includes many government projects, shrank for the third month in a row in July, losing 400 jobs. Residential building and specialty trade employment dropped 1,600 jobs in July.

"Overall job creation will remain sluggish at best unless single-family home building also revives," Simonson said.


Brighter job picture fails to overcome pessimism on the economy

California job market is rebounding, but unevenly

June home prices rise 0.7% from May but fall 6.8% from June 2010

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: Construction workers rest in a new home in Winchester. Credit: Alana Semuels / Los Angeles Times