By Lital Shair Nada, market research associate, ARTBA 

Total U.S. general construction employment fell less than 1 percent in March, but the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the transportation sector is unclear.

Detailed information for highway, street and bridge construction employment always lags one month behind the national jobs report. With some exceptions, work on highway and bridge construction projects, with proper safety precautions, continued in March, and state transportation departments moved forward with bid lettings as scheduled. Some states have extended lane closures or started the construction season ahead of schedule to take advantage of lower traffic volumes.

See the regularly updated, state-by-state roundup available in the MEMBERS ONLY section of the ARTBA website for more details.

The 29,000 general construction jobs lost in March were part of the overall decline of 701,000 jobs across the U.S. economy, an unprecedented number, according April 3 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Total construction employment fell from a seasonally adjusted 7.63 million workers in February to 7.6 million in March. This pushed the overall construction unemployment rate up from 5.5 percent to 6.9 percent during the time period.

Weekly unemployment claims of over 6 million workers point to the growing impact of COVID-19 crisis on the U.S. economy.

The latest BLS data shows highway and bridge contractors added 24,500 jobs to their payrolls in February, with overall employment up 8.7 percent to 305,000 jobs compared to February 2019 levels. Additional data released in April and May will provide a more comprehensive view of developments in the transportation construction industry and how they are different from general construction.

ARTBA members are encouraged to take a few minutes to complete the 1st Quarter Transportation Construction Industry Conditions Survey to help us track the impacts of the pandemic. See ARTBA’s April labor report.