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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Here’s a surprising detail from Friday's jobs report: America is seeing insatiable building demand, but the sector that most directly benefits is shedding workers.

Why it matters: A material crunch and supply chain mess are holding down job gains.

Driving the news: The construction sector shed 20,000 jobs in May.

  • In April, the industry (on net) added no jobs at all.

What’s happening: Last month’s losses were almost entirely driven by a steep decline of specialty trade contractors. Think roofers, drywallers or pipefitters — specifically those working on commercial projects.

  • "A lot of it could be ... getting [construction] materials on job sites," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told CNBC Friday.

The big picture: Home prices nationally rose the most since 2005, data out last week showed — a byproduct of strong demand, but not enough supply.

  • Commercial building — particularly for fulfillment or data centers — is heating up too, says Anirban Basu, chief economist at Associated Builders and Contractors, an industry trade group.

But, but, but: Builders are struggling to source crucial materials like lumber, iron and steel — and prices for them have skyrocketed.

How it's playing out: "Projects are being postponed, then, of course, some construction workers are being released from employment," says Basu.

What to watch: Residential construction added a mere 1,900 jobs last month, a slower pace than what the country’s housing boom might suggest, Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, told Housing Wire.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Sep 6, 2021 - Economy & Business

The labor movement is showing signs of life

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Labor unions represent a larger percentage of U.S. workers than at any time in the past five years, as the pandemic took its biggest bite out of non-unionized jobs.

Why it matters: America's labor movement isn't quite resurgent, but it is showing signs of life after decades of decline.

The consumer's massive "war chest"

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Economists expect the pace of economic growth to cool off now that government transfer payments like stimulus checks and emergency unemployment benefits are in the rearview mirror. But evidence suggests that the U.S. consumer is sitting on a lot of financial firepower that could be a key driver of growth in the quarters to come.

Why it matters: U.S. consumer spending is massive, representing about 70% of GDP.

The Fed takes on its own rules amid stock trading controversy

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New disclosures that showed Fed officials were active in financial markets set off a firestorm of criticism. Now the Fed may overhaul the long-standing rules that allow those transactions.

Why it matters: What officials actively traded was sensitive to the Fed decisions they helped shape, including the unprecedented support that underpinned a massive financial market boom.