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Construction Unemployment Dips Slightly In Southwest

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The national construction unemployment rate (seasonally unadjusted) went from 8.6% in November to 11.4% in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. The rate was still a year-over-year increase from 2012 when the construction unemployment rate was 13.5%.

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“Construction employment edged down in December (-16,000). However, in 2013, the industry added an average of 10,000 jobs per month. Employment in nonresidential specialty trade contractors declined by 13,000 in December, possibly reflecting unusually cold weather in parts of the country,” according to a news release Jan. 10 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the U.S. Southwest, the recent trend is flatter than the national average, however.

According to the BLS, In New Mexico for example, there were about 41,300 construction jobs in November, reflecting an increase of about 2,000 jobs from October, and amounting to a year-over-year increase in construction jobs of 2.2%. New Mexico's overall unemployment rate (adjusted) was down by about 0.2% from 6.6% in October. New Mexico's civilian labor force comprised 918,800 in November, off by 1,900 from the previous month.

In Arizona, the bureau said there were 123,400 jobs in construction in November, up from 119,600 in October and amounting to a 4.7% year-over-year increase. The state's overall unemployment rate was about 7.8% in November, compared with 8.2% the month prior. Arizona's civilian labor force was off in November by about 5,600, to 2,990,500 in November.

In Nevada, there were 54,000 construction jobs in November up from 55,200 in October, and the statistic was slightly off year-over-year by 0.2%. The state's overall unemployment rate was about 9% in November, off 0.3% from October. Its civilian labor force was off by 400 at 1,361,800 in November.

In Nevada's greater Las Vegas-Paradise metro area, there were about 36,700 construction jobs in November, down from 38,100 in October, amounting to a significant decrease of 3.9% year-over-year. However, the region's overall unemployment was down from 9.4% in October to 8.6%, and the region's civilian labor force increased by 200 to 986,600 during the month.

The new national statistics also include the days of the federal government “shutdown,” which likely disrupted a variety of projects and potentially cooled off private investors and developers. The new numbers do include a drop-off in non-residential specialty trade jobs.

“While we're proud that 120,000 construction workers went back to work in 2013, the construction unemployment rate remains significantly worse than the national unemployment rate with 700,000 workers still looking for a job while wages remain flat,” says Terry O'Sullivan, general president of the Laborers' International Union of North America.

One way to invigorate the economy while creating positive motion in the construction industry, according to O’Sullivan and others is for greater infrastructure investments.

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