Building Jobs

Construction employment is increasing across most of the country, bringing good news for the economy but mixed news, perhaps, for the trucking industry.

Employment in construction rose year-over-year in 28 states and the District of Columbia in January, the Associated General Contractors of America said.

Another 20 states lost construction jobs, while employment was flat in two states year-over-year, according to an AGC analysis of Labor Department data.

Mild winter weather this year helped deliver the best net positive showing for state construction employment since 2007, the building industry group said.

From December 2011 to January 2012, 35 states and the District of Columbia added construction jobs, the ACG said, with employment declining in only 13 states.

“There is accumulating evidence that construction has passed its low point in a majority of states,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association.

Construction employment has been rising since August, increasing 2 percent in January and 1.2 percent in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Residential construction employment rose 1.7 percent in January and 1.2 percent in February, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary figures from the BLS.

In January, new home construction throughout the U.S. rose 1.5 percent from December, and housing starts were up 9.9 percent year-over-year.

For trucking, an increase in construction employment points toward a welcome increase in freight, as builders order more materials and supplies.

It may take as many as 17 truckloads to build a house, as Ed Leamer, chief economist for the Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index, recently pointed out.

However, the trucking industry also competes with construction for workers, with drivers often leaving truck cabs for higher paying work on building sites.

An increase in construction employment therefore could put more pressure on motor carriers to raise pay and incentives to attract and keep drivers.

The trucking industry increased hiring 4.1 percent in January and 3.7 percent year-over-year in February, according to seasonally adjusted data from the BLS.

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter @wbcassidy_joc

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