U.S. data understates construction job loss-report

WASHINGTON, July 16 Mon Jul 16, 2007 10:31am EDT

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WASHINGTON, July 16 (Reuters) - Government data may have understated U.S. construction job losses by as much as 139,000, and further declines in the sector will likely prove manageable, a report released on Monday said.

Economists have been puzzling over why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown only a slight decline in construction jobs, even though homebuilding activity has dropped dramatically.

"An alternative estimate, based on previously unpublished data used to develop the ADP National Employment Report, suggests that employment in the construction industry has already declined 156,000 from a recent peak, and is now 139,000 below the government's official estimates," Macroeconomic Advisers wrote in a report.

The study, based on payroll data from ADP, the private employment services company that compiles its own monthly employment report, suggests that the construction sector will shed as many as 247,000 jobs between June 2007 and the last quarter of 2008, or a little more than 14,000 per month.

"This certainly would not be pretty, but neither would it be calamitous for the national economy," the report said. "Indeed, such a decline would be smaller than many commentators suggest is likely."

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