Labor conditions improving quicker than thought

SKOKIE, Ill. — The December 84,000 job loss figure released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was more than projected, but a three month data review suggests that labor conditions are improving at a pace better than expected.

According to a recent report by the Portland Cement Association, the combination of BLS upward data revisions and better than expected job market performance resulted in only 501,000 job losses during August-December 2009 versus an PCA-predicted 861,000.

“There is evidence that the job creation process has already begun,” Ed Sullivan, PCA chief economist said. “Typically, extended work hours, overtime and temporary hiring precede job creation. November’s increase in the length of the average workweek—the first increase in 14 months—was unchanged in December at 33.2 hours. Furthermore, temporary employment continued to rise, as 47,000 positions were added in December.”

If the labor market sustains its better than expected performance from the fourth quarter, it could lead to a quicker healing of the underlying fundamentals surrounding construction, Sullivan said.

"Slightly stronger labor market projections could reduce 2010 state deficits resulting in smaller drags on public construction activity and lead to the potential of a quicker recovery in nonresidential construction. Additionally, a stronger labor market would improve the outlook for single family construction activity in 2010 and 2011 and shorten the period for an easing in lending standards.”

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