Nonfarm payroll employment in December increased by 145,000, seasonally adjusted, from November, and by 2,108,000 (1.4%) for the year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, and Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) analyzed in its newsletter.

The unemployment rate remained at November’s level of 3.5%, matching the 50-year low reached in September. Construction employment rose by 20,000 for the month, and 145,000 (2%) year-over-year to 7,551,000, the most since October 2007. Average hourly earnings in construction rose 2.3% year-over-year to $31.11, 9.9% above the average for all private-sector employees ($28.32, a 3.1%year-over-year increase). The unemployment rate in construction, not seasonally adjusted, dipped from 5.1% in December 2018 to 5%, and the number of unemployed job seekers with construction experience inched down from 493,000 to 489,000, the lowest December levels in the 20-year history of both series. Not-seasonally-adjusted data varies with normal weather and holiday patterns, and thus should not be compared to levels in other months. The AGC-Sage 2020 Hiring and Business Outlook Survey in December found that 75% of the 956 respondents expect their firms to add employees in 2020. But 81% said hiring was difficult in 2019, and 65% expect it to remain as hard or harder.