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September 10, 2020

A/E Employment Surges, But State of Industry Remains Mixed

A/E employment increased by 14,400 jobs in August to 1,484,000. While that total still lags far behind pre-pandemic levels, the large increase points to a strengthening in the fundamentals for the engineering industry.

Prior to the pandemic, A/E employment had climbed steadily for several years, reaching a record high employment level of 1,540,300 in February, 2020. March saw a small decline, but then the bottom fell out in April with the loss of nearly 80,000 jobs or more than 5 percent of employees.

Through May and June, the industry regained about 11,000 jobs, but then the resurgence of COVID-19 infections caused a small drop in July.

The August increase was the biggest in the Professional and Technical Services sector.

Other indicators paint a mixed picture about the A/E/C market.

The monthly Dodge Momentum Index, which tracks the first (or initial) report for nonresidential building projects in planning, has climbed for two consecutive months. Within the Index, the Commercial component, which tracks private construction starts, has risen 9 percent from its June low and is just 13 percent below its 2018 peak. The Institutional component, however, which tracks public construction starts has declined for five consecutive months and, according to Dodge, "has yet to hit bottom." The institutional component is now 34% below its recent peak.

The AIA Billings Index stablized in July report, which was released in mid-August, but the score of 40 still indicates a decline in firm billings. 


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