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OFF-THE-WALL

The US construction industry is larger now than it was before the pandemic

A worker walked buy a construction zone and a truck in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania.
Keep it moving.
  • Nate DiCamillo
By Nate DiCamillo

Economics reporter based in New York.

Published Last updated

When covid-19 hit the US, builders were struggling to find skilled labor. Now the construction industry has more workers than before the pandemic, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released Apr. 1.

The recovery was led by homebuilding and the remodeling sectors, which regained all of their lost jobs at the beginning of the year and have continued to expand. The number of people working in residential construction jobs was 890,000 in March, a 6% jump from February 2020.

“Housing was a bright spot for the economy in 2020, with historically low interest rates, a shift in housing preferences to large homes, and an increased ability to live further out from urban cores increasing demand for new construction and home improvement,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in an email.

High demand in construction lifted hourly earnings to 33% above pre-pandemic levels. So as other sectors lost workers, construction picked up new hands, said Dietz.

Which industries have recovered from the pandemic?

Overall, the US economy has not recovered all the jobs lost during the pandemic. It’s still 1.57 million jobs short. But some industries are already back at pre-pandemic levels or beyond.

Getting back to work

Overall, the March jobs report showed signs of a labor market growing at a healthy clip and headed back to February 2020 levels. Most of Americans in prime working age—80%— have a job. That’s up from a low of 70% in April 2020.

The number of people who lost permanent jobs also decreased in March by 190,000 to 1.4 million, close to the 1.3 million level that existed before the pandemic.

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