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Nonresidential Construction Employment Holds Steady in February, but Industry Must Brace for Coronavirus’ Impact

Employment in the construction industry thrived in February with the addition of 42,000 net new jobs, displaying a substantial increase year-over-year (YOY). Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) reported the annual gain showed an expansion of 223,000 jobs.

According to the latest ABC report, nonresidential construction led the charge against unemployment, growing by nearly 20,000 jobs last month—a 3.1% increase over February 2019. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors saw the most gains at 3.6% YOY followed by heavy and civil engineering at 3.1% and nonresidential building at 1.5%. What has yet to be seen is whether these numbers will change as the coronavirus sweeps across the nation.

"While the level of construction activity is unlikely to be fundamentally altered in the near-term—except for when sick workers are asked to stay home—these impacts will eventually catch up to the nation's construction sector," ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu said in the report. "With many corporate entities and households deeply indebted, a fragility in the U.S. economy is now being exposed. Not only will this translate into a surge in bankruptcies as the crisis deepens, but it will also result in generally weaker balance sheets, which could eventually impact design work and construction starts."

—Andrew Michaels, editorial associate

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Monday, 30 March 2020