Despite the promise of federal stimulus bucks flowing into public construction projects-- for everything from roads and bridges to schools-- and the various faint indicators that the economy has begun to turn itself toward recovery, the view of better times ahead remains bleak for those working in the dirt.
According to Associated General Contractors of America's (AGC) chief economist Ken Simonson, analysis of new construction employment figures released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that construction workers nationwide continue "to bear the brunt of the recession," accounting for almost one-third of the jobs lost this August. Simonson said the new figures "underscore how the current economic climate is having a disproportionate impact" on construction.
“While most Americans are experiencing a recession, construction workers are being forced to cope with depression-like conditions,” stressed Simonson. “There’s nothing good in today’s report for the nation’s construction workers.”
He pointed out that construction employment nationwide declined by 65,000 this August. He added that construction workers accounted for 30% of the total non-farm job losses reported for the month-- but the industry only accounts for 5% of the workforce.
The BLS figures also show that since the beginning of the recession, 1.4-million construction workers have lost their jobs. As a result, said Simonson, the unemployment rate among construction workers is now 16.5%, not seasonally adjusted, while the overall unemployment rate stands at 9.6% (9.7% if seasonally adjusted).
Construction firms-- and truck fleets of all types-- need to see many more of these signs going up!
Bearing in mind the promised impact of federal stimulus funds earmarked for public construction, it is depressing to note that the August numbers also "show that non-residential construction continues to account for a greater share of the industry’s job losses as compared to residential construction," according to Simonson.
He said that the report shows nearly 43,000 non-residential construction workers lost their jobs, while 22,600 residential construction workers were laid off in August. The federal government, Simonson noted, said that non-residential construction has accounted for more job losses in 2009 than residential construction, whereas in 2008, residential construction saw the largest decline in employment.
“It is time for federal agencies to convert stimulus project announcements into actual contracts and construction activity,” said Stephen Sandherr, AGC's CEO. He stated that few federal agencies besides the U.S. Dept. of Transportation have converted stimulus funds into new construction activity. “Congress also needs to look for ways to encourage the kind of sustained private economic growth that will generate significant new construction activity.”
To be sure, what hurts the constructon industry hurst trucking-- and trucking's suppliers, inlcuding everyone from truck and trailer OEMs down to component manufacturers to suppliers of consumables.
Perhaps the best action anyone in trucking can take right now to help get construction get rolling again is to pressure U.S. Represenatatves and Senators alike to look into what the holdups are in funding so-called "shovel-ready projects" that the stimulus dollars were expected to benefit first.