The Midwest remained a tale of two regions in June, with Indiana, Minnesota and Ohio logging solid construction employment gains during the month and Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin logging substantial losses, according to year-over-year data compiled by the Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

Job losses in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metropolitan market were the worst in the nation (-5,600 jobs, -5%), followed by New York City (-5,500 jobs, -5%); New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La. (-5,100 jobs, -16%); Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (-4,800 jobs, -9%) and Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y. (-4,700 jobs, -% percent).

The Indianapolis-Carmel and Akron, Ohio, markets logged the region's greatest gains, with increases of 5,400 (13%) and 1,500 (13%), respectively.

By comparison, U.S. construction employment declined by 1,000 in July, even though the industry's unemployment rate dropped to 12.3%, the lowest July rate in four years, according to an AGC analysis of federal data.

Though the U.S. construction unemployment rate has dropped steadily since 2009, AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson attributes the decline to hundreds of thousands of out-of-work construction workers that have left the industry to seek other employment opportunities.

“Employment levels in the construction industry have remained relatively stagnant for two-and-a-half years,”  says Simonson.

Simonson notes that employment opportunities in the non-residential sector are particularly mixed, reflecting gains in highway and private nonresidential activity that have been offset by shrinking public investment in schools and other infrastructure.

AGC officials note the industry continues to suffer from weak demand caused by slowing private sector growth and declining public sector investments in construction. “As long as the economy remains stagnant, construction employment levels will remain flat,” says AGC CEO Stephen E. Sandherr.