The Great Construction Employment Mystery Revisited

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Yesterday I wondered why residential construction employment was flat even though residential housing starts had doubled over the past 18 months. Today, a regular reader writes in to suggest that I’m just not being patient enough. Yes, housing starts are up, but on a historical scale they’re still about as low as they’ve ever been. Even with the recent doubling, starts have only barely reached the level they were at in the middle of the 1991 recession, and residential construction employment is about the same as it was then (green lines in chart below). Employment is a lagging indicator, and we just need another year or two of growth before we’re going to see a similar rebound in construction employment. Calculated Risk wrote about this a few months ago.

The chart below shows only residential construction employment, which tracks housing starts better than the overall construction employment figure. But even so, you can see the lag and you can see where we are compared to historical levels. Unless I hear something better, it sounds like this basically solves the mystery.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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