Construction jobs, spending dive; Reed's starts rise; Manpower, fed outlooks grim
The unemployment rate in February climbed to 8.9 percent overall, not seasonally adjusted (8.1 percent seasonally adjusted) from 5.2 percent in February 2008, and to 21.4 percent in construction from 11.4 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Nonfarm payroll employment shrank by 651,000 jobs in February, seasonally adjusted, and the estimates for January and December worsened to -655,000 and -681,000, respectively. Since February 2008, the economy has shed 4,168,000 jobs (3.0 percent). Construction employment sank by 104,000 jobs in February and 826,000 over 12 months. That was one-fifth of the economy-wide loss over the year, even though the industry accounts for only one out of 20 employees. All five construction employment categories suffered steep declines: residential building and specialty trade contractors each lost 15 percent of employees in a year, while nonresidential building, specialty trades and heavy and civil engineering cut 8.4 percent. Employment in architectural and engineering services, a harbinger of demand for future construction, slumped 16,000 in February and 56,300 (3.9 percent) over 12 months. Average hourly earnings in construction fell 4 cents for the month to $22.37, seasonally adjusted, but were 4.1 percent higher than in February 2008 and 21 percent higher than the average of $18.47 for all private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees, according to the March 10 Data DIGest.