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90 Monthly Lab. Rev. 1 (1967)
Seasonality and Construction

handle is hein.journals/month90 and id is 995 raw text is: Seasonality and Construction
New Government Policies and Further Use
of Technological Advances
Could Reduce the High Costs of Irregular Work

THE SEASONAL NATUR' of the construction indus-
try not only causes considerable hardship for
the 4.6 million workers I who gain their livelihood
in the industry, but also affects the entire popu-
lation by adding to the cost of living. After years
of neglect, the problem is beginning to receive at-
tention again as a source of economic waste and
an obstacle in the campaign against inflation.
For construction workers, seasonality means
serious unemployment and loss of earnings. Peak
operations in the summer and fall draw many
thousands of workers into the labor force who can-
Aot find employment in the industry during the
slack of winter. This has resulted in high unem-
ployment in the winter, thus making the industry's
unemployment rate in recent years more than
double that for the Nation.
The hardship for irregular or seasonal workers
in the construction industry sometimes can be over-
stated. High wage rates and peak-season overtime
c. ntribute to annual earnings that, although lower
than those for other heavy industries, are some-
what above the all-industry average. Many work-
ers receive unemployment insurance benefits; some
find winter jobs in other industries, and some treat
the Winter months as a forced vacation and with-
draw from the labor force.
The unemployment insurance system is itself
a victim of seasonality. Seasonal workers, particu-
larly those in construction, regularly withdraw
more funds than their employers contribute to
State unemployment insurance, thus benefiting
from a form of subsidy. The steady drain on the
insurance funds by the seasonal industries limits
the accumulation of reserves and thus reduces the

ability of the funds to aid the long-term un-
Price of Instability
The major burden of seasonality, iowever, falls
on the consumer. Higher wages and overtime pre-
miums in the busy season are part of seasonal
operation as are excessive equipment costs and
swollen overhead. These extra expenses are passed
on to the public in increased housing costs, inflated
taxes and fees, and more expensive business serv-
ices. Of about $70 billion paid out annually for
construction under contract, some $3 to $4 billion
is attributable to the seasonal nature of the
A comprehensive study of seasonality is now
underway in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pend-
ing publication of the complete report, this
article indicates the seriousness of the problem and
possible steps to alleviate it.
Extent of Seasonality
Seasonality is becoming increasingly important
to the nation's economic equilibrium since both
wages and prices in the construction industry have
*Deputy Commissioner of Labor Statistics and Chief, Dlvisiop
of Program Planning and Evaluation, respectively.
,Of these 4.6 million some 3.3 million are wage and salary
workers in the contract construction industry (i.e., in special-
ised construction concerns doing work for other under contract),
while the remaining 1.3 million include primarily regular govern-
ment employees, and the self-employed. Construction workers
on force account in other industries are not included in the
4.8 million. The problem of seasonal employment is greatest
among the contract construction workers, since many of the
others hold steady year-round jobs.

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