Plenty of work for homebuilders, but few commercial construction jobs.


Home construction workers, whose livelihoods were on the line as the economy collapsed in the spring, are benefiting from a newly resurgent housing market, while builders of commercial and retail properties struggle.

About 40 percent of construction workers are in the residential sector, while 60 percent are in the nonresidential field, according to Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America, a trade group.

Mr. Simonson’s group represents the nonresidential part of the business, which has been hard hit by empty office buildings and stores.

“The outlook is fairly bleak for nonresidential construction,” he said. “New residential construction is terrific, specifically single family homes.”

After plunging in the spring, employment in residential construction rose 2.1 percent from June to August, while nonresidential jobs declined 0.4 percent, the contractors’ group said. One exception to the trend is construction of distribution centers, which is being driven by the boom in e-commerce that has accompanied the pandemic.

Construction employment was 7.2 million in August, the latest month for which figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are available. That was a decline of 425,000 from February.

The National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that its index of pending home sales rose 8.8 percent in August, reaching a record high, as rock-bottom mortgage rates and a desire to escape crowded cities for suburban and exurban areas fed demand.

“Even before the pandemic, we had a housing shortage and one of the factors was a shortage of skilled construction workers,” said Lawrence Yun, the trade group’s chief economist. “The residential sector is booming.”



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