Construction’s unemployment rate fell in August to its lowest level in eight months, but the rate remains much worse than it was a year ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Sept. 4. Economists say the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appears to be saving some jobs, at least in the highway sector, but they also say the industry is still hurting.

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although construction’s 16.5% August jobless rate was better than July’s 18.2%, it remained more than double the August 2008 mark of 8.2%. Rates are not seasonally adjusted. Construction’s jobless rate also was far above the 9.6% overall U.S. level for August, on the same scale.

The BLS report showed construction lost 65,000 jobs in August, seasonally adjusted. That was better than the 76,000 jobs shed in July, but far from a gain. Since the recession began, construction has lost about 1.4 million jobs. “The rate of descent has eased for construction employment, but the corner has yet to be turned,” says Robert A. Murray, McGraw-Hill Construction’s vice president for economic affairs. (ENR is a unit of McGraw-Hill Construction.)

Murray has seen a pickup in highway construction starts, helped by ARRA. He says that has eased what would have been a more severe employment drop, but adds, “It’s still too early to discern whether or not jobs are being created.”