The construction industry’s unemployment rate rose in October, to 13.7% from September’s 13.3% level, but showed improvement over the October 2010 mark of 17.3%.

The latest monthly employment update from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, released on Nov. 4, also showed that construction lost 20,000 jobs in October, after gaining 27,000 the previous month.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors chief economist, said, “Declining public-sector demand for construction, combined with slow growth in private-sector demand, is keeping construction employment mired in a cycle of small gains followed by small losses.”

October marked the 13th-straight month in which industry’s jobless rate was below its year-earlier level. Simonson also noted that one probable factor in the recent, generally downward trend in construction’s unemployment rate is that many who used to work in the industry are not seeking jobs there now.

But construction still has the highest rate among major industry groups.

BLS said that all of construction’s October job losses came in the nonresidential building segment. That more than offset the 3,700 positions added in heavy-civil construction and the 3,700 gained in residential work.

In addition, architectural and engineering services lost 2,200 positions last month, after posting increases earlier this year.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said that the “soft patch” that the U.S. economy hit in March affected lenders and developers, with the result that “many construction projects that were set to break ground have been put on hold.”

Basu said, “Construction activity is likely to remain soft in the months ahead for a variety of reasons, including stretched state and local government capital budgets, the winding down of federal stimulus, and still-disciplined lending.”

Over all, the nation’s economy added 80,000 jobs in October, nudging the national jobless rate down to 9.0%, from 9.1% in July, August and September.