February 1, 2013 / 8:46 PM / 5 years ago

Hiring at U.S. construction sites shifts into higher gear

* 82,000 construction jobs created November to January
    * Biggest three-month gain since April 2006
    * Construction sector added jobs every month since June

    By Jason Lange
    WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The outlook for U.S.
construction workers brightened on Friday with a report that
showed growing momentum in hiring at building sites.
    The U.S. Labor Department said 82,000 construction jobs were
created between November and January, the biggest three-month
gain since the three months ended April 2006. 
    That suggests the recovery underway in the U.S. housing
market, seen in appreciating home prices and more housing
starts, may be leading to a stronger pace of hiring.
    "We're seeing more demand for construction workers," said
Jed Kolko, an economist at real estate website Trulia.
    The housing rebound still has a long way to go before a full
recovery, but growth in the sector will likely boost economic
growth in 2013 for the second straight year.
    Friday's data was contained in the government's monthly
employment report, which showed modest employment growth in
January and a small increase in the jobless rate to 7.9 percent.
    The details of the report showed the labor market in 2012
was healthier than initially estimated, with construction
playing a bigger role in job creation. The Labor Department said
335,000 more jobs were created in 2012 than the government had
first estimated. Of those, 73,000 were in construction.
    The report showed the construction sector has added jobs
every month since June, and that the pace of growth picked up
substantially in October.
    "Now the upward trend looks more convincing," said Ryan
Wang, an economist at HSBC in New York. If the pace of hiring
since October continues, the economy could add about 300,000
construction jobs this year, he said.
    That would be the fastest pace since 2005, though it would
only be one facet of the boost a housing recovery would give to
economic growth. Economists say that for every new single family
home constructed, at least three permanent jobs are created as
buyers shell out money to equip their homes.
    Housing now is a smaller part of the economy than it was
even before the housing bubble of the early 2000s, so the
current recovery is providing less of an economic boost than it
usually would following a recession.
    Indeed, even if the October-January pace of construction
hiring continued throughout 2013, the sector would only regain a
sliver of the 1.5 million jobs that it lost in the recession.
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