Well into one of the longest expansions in U.S. history, construction jobs are still below their pre-downturn peaks.
In July, nearly 6.9 million people across the U.S. worked in construction. Along with manufacturing, these are some of the highest-paying jobs for those without a bachelor’s degree.
But this is about 821,000 jobs fewer than the pre-recession peak reached in the spring and summer of 2006. The same trend carries over to Washington, where 195,500 worked in the sector in July. That’s almost 60,000 more than the 2011 trough. But it’s still below the 2007 peak of 211,600.
And what about the crane capital of America? For the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area, construction employment was 117,200 in May, the most recent month available. (That shows how much Seattle counts for this sector’s employment in the state.) But this is still about 9,900 jobs below the 2007 peak.
A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows 1.9 million fewer people working in construction and manufacturing, despite the economy adding 8.2 million jobs in the private sector. On the other hand, positions for those without a bachelor’s degree have increased in lower-paying industries such as hospitality, health care, temporary help services and other services.
In construction, it’s difficult to set a normal trend line because of the distortion of the 2000s housing bubble. From January 1990 to January 2000, the sector added more than 1.3 million jobs. For the 1980s, it was 797,000, including the brutal recession early in the decade. But a back-of-the-napkin calculation shows the economy was adding around 106,000 jobs a year nationally.
Surprisingly, 191,000 construction jobs were added nationally in between July 2016 and last month. So it’s well above the trend-line seen above for the ’80s and ’90s (note, however, that the labor force has grown substantially). But that’s a substantial acceleration from the previous five years. We’ll see whether it can hold (without a bubble that later bursts). Considering the other Washington’s hostility to building infrastructure, it’s doubtful.
The situation may be better in Seattle, which is both building up and adding infrastructure.
Today’s Econ Haiku:
College pickup spot
Amazon’s in every niche
Oh, wait, that pickup