Construction�s unemployment rate climbed again in October, hitting 18.7%, up from 17.1% in September, as the industry lost another 62,000 jobs during the month, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.

BLS's latest monthly report on the unemployment picture, released Nov. 6, also showed that the nation's overall jobless rate reached 10.2% in October, the highest level since April 1983, and a hike from September�s 9.8%. The overall unemployment rate is adjusted for seasonal variations; the construction sector's rate is not.

Perhaps anticipating worsening jobless results, Congress one day earlier gave final approval to a bill that extends and broadens American Recovery and Reinvestment Act housing and business tax breaks and benefits for those who are out of work. The aim is to boost the economy and encourage companies to increase hiring.

As President Obama signed that bill into law, just hours after the BLS report came out, he said the administration is examining still further moves to give the economy a lift.

In words that no doubt caught the ear of construction officials, the President said that his economic advisers are "looking at ideas such as additional investments in our aging roads and bridges, incentives to encourage families and businesses to make buildings more energy-efficient, additional tax cuts for businesses to create jobs, additional steps to increase the flow of credit to small businesses, and an aggressive agenda to promote exports and help American manufacturers sell their products around the world."

The construction industry�s 18.7% October jobless rate remains the highest among major industries and is a big jump from the October 2008 level of 10.8%.

BLS said that construction�s October job losses were focused in the nonresidential specialty trade contractors sector, with 30,000 jobs shed, and in heavy construction, which lost 14,000 jobs.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors� chief economist, says that with the overall unemployment rate the worst in 26 years, "the markets are aware that consumer confidence will likely sag in the wake of this jobs report and that is not conducive to an improved corporate earning environment."

But Basu does see "some reasonably positive elements" in the BLS report. For example, he says that "the pace of job loss by nonresidential building contractors has slowed sharply," with 3,200 jobs lost in October in that category.

Construction continues to show large job losses despite an injection of billions of dollars since February from ARRA. The White House said Oct. 30 that the stimulus had preserved or created more than 80,000 construction jobs through Sept. 30. That figure is based on reports from state and local government agencies and other ARRA aid recipients filed with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.

But congressional Republicans, such as House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio), have been blasting Democrats for the stimulus program, which he contends is not working.

Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors, says, "Helpful as the stimulus has been in saving some construction jobs, it is going to take more work to halt the devastating job losses that are wiping out millions of construction workers� families."

Construction Unemployment Rate
Month Rate in %
October 18.7%
Spetember 17.1%
August 16.5
July 18.2
June 17.4
May 19.2
April 18.7
March 21.1
February 21.4
January 18.2
December 15.3
November 12.7
October 10.8
Note: Rates are not seasonally adjusted.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics