The federal government’s monthly jobs report is due out tomorrow morning, which means we get our monthly sneak peek via ADP’s National Employment Report, which the payroll processing firm releases a day or two before the Department of Labor releases theirs. For October, ADP’s report states that the economy added 158,000 jobs in October—and 23,000 of these were in construction. This is more than twice the 10,000 new construction jobs ADP reported last month (revised up to 12,000 jobs with this report).
As the Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews, who has been following the track records of both ADP’s and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s (BLS) employment statistics, says: “ADP is treated as the red-haired stepchild of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report: at best a good first guess, but not definitive at all.” He doesn’t necessarily agree with this treatment of ADP, but the company’s monthly report is nevertheless regarded as an appetizer leading up to the official main course.
No matter how it is regarded, the ADP report does offer some insights.
For instance, while the report of new construction jobs is great, that 23,000 translates into only an 0.40 percent uptick in construction jobs. Sure, this might not seem like something to write home about, but it’s still (potentially) 23,000 construction workers who weren’t working last month. Also, that figure is ADP’s second highest monthly jobs added in the construction sector since the end of 2006. (December 2011 saw an increase of 31,000 construction jobs.)
Also, the construction sector’s number is much better than the dip that manufacturing saw last month, and nearly as good as the gain for professional and business services. Those two sectors of the economy have had a much better few years than has construction, so maybe this represents a change in the economy going forward. Time will tell.
Third, as we’ve also seen in the BLS’s historic charts, the construction workforce has shrunk considerably since the peak of the construction boom. In June 2006, ADP’s data show 7,726,000 employed in construction; last month, 5,651,000. That’s a decrease in workforce size of nearly 27 percent. However, the workforce is up by 174,000 since its nadir of 5,477,000, reached in October 2010.
This information comes from the spreadsheet containing historical data on ADP’s employment report landing page. Click the link above for that document.