By Dr. Alison Premo Black, chief economist, ARTBA 

The construction industry shed 784,000 jobs between March and April as businesses grappled with the slowdown in most major types of activity, according to data (not seasonally adjusted) released May 8 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Detailed information for highway, street, and bridge construction employment always lags one month behind the national jobs report. Despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and work delays in some states, highway and bridge construction employment in March grew compared to the previous year and outperformed nearly every other sector of the U.S. economy.

Highway and bridge contractor employment increased 8.9 percent in March compared to March 2019 as an additional 26,100 workers were on the payroll. Only two other industries – logging and software – grew by a larger percent. Employment was also up in several industries that supply goods and services for highway and bridge construction, including aggregate suppliers, ready-mix concrete and stone mining and quarrying.

With the exception of a few states, highway and bridge construction work was deemed “essential” and continued in March with additional safety measures in place to protect workers on the project site and in the office. It remains to be seen if the broader economic uncertainty and any slowdown in transportation construction work will impact employment in April when the data is released next month.

Nine states have announced some sort of project delays or cancellations as a result of lower transportation-related revenues. The most up-to-date information about the pandemic’s impact on projects and revenues is found in two regularly updated, state-by-state roundups posted to the Members Only section of ARTBA’s website.

Across the economy, total employment fell by an unprecedented 20.5 million jobs – the largest monthly decline since BLS began collecting the data in 1939. Read ARTBA’s May labor report.