ARLINGTON, Va. - Construction employers added 6,000 workers to payrolls in June as the industry's unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent, its lowest June level in six years, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America.
Association officials cautioned, however, that recent employment gains could be undermined when the federal government begins scaling back transportation investments in August.
"The construction industry continues to expand gradually and unevenly," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "Despite recent job growth, construction employment is still more than 1.7 million jobs or 22 percent below its 2006 peak."
Construction employment totaled 6,015,000 in June, the highest total since June 2009 and an increase of 186,000 or 3.2 percent from a year earlier, Simonson noted. Residential construction employers added 6,600 jobs in June and 106,300 (4.9 percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential construction employment was unchanged since May, but up by 80,000 (2.2 percent) since June 2013.
The sector's recent employment gains could be undermined, however, by cuts in federal transportation funding that are expected to begin taking effect in August, association officials warned. The funding cuts will come as the balance in the highway account of the federal Highway Trust Fund runs short of money later this summer. Association officials urged Congress and the Obama administration to work together to find new revenue for the Fund that will keep federal highway investments levels from dropping.
"It is hard to imagine how the industry will continue to recover amid significant cuts to the largest single federally-funded construction program," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer.