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Construction National Outlook – December 2016

Economic data from August and September painted a picture of a U.S. economy that remains stuck in a slow-growth cycle, but which is strong relative to its primary global partners. Job creation remains solid given the duration of the business cycle; and related data on wage growth and household incomes suggest that U.S. consumers have less to be concerned about today than even two years ago. Activity by business continues to weaken – albeit slightly – as a strong U.S. dollar, political uncertainty and weak global demand are sources of worry.

Labor markets remain the best source of optimism about the economy. Employment grew by 156,000 jobs in September, according to the October 7 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After revisions were made to July and August job creation estimates, the September data meant that the monthly job additions during the third quarter averaged 191,000 – higher than the average of 171,000 for the full year to date.

As important as the jobs gained were the increase in average workers wages, which were up 2.6 percent year-over-year. Labor force participation also improved, with 444,000 more people entering the workforce. The average hours worked also jumped during the quarter. The September report showed a continuation of the upward trend in professional services and healthcare jobs, a possible end to the extended job losses in energy and further declines in manufacturing employment.

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