Construction's unemployment rate dropped sharply in April, to 14.5% from 17.2% in March, although the industry shed 2,000 jobs. Last month's construction jobless rate also was far below the April 2011 level of 17.8%, continuing a long string of year-over-year declines.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest monthly report on employment trends, released on May 4, showed that the job losses last month in construction's buildings and nonresidential specialty trades sectors outweighed the gains in the heavy-civil and residential specialty trades segments.

The picture improved for architectural and engineering services, which added 7,400 jobs in April. BLS lists A/E services separately from construction.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors chief economist, said, "The plunge in the unemployment rate for former construction workers from 17.8% in April 2011 and 21.8% two years ago is good news for them." But he added, "Unfortunately, few of them have found jobs in construction, which actually employed 1,000 fewer workers than it did in April 2010."

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said that the 8,400 jobs lost in April among nonresidential specialty trade contractors is "an indication that more construction projects are being completed relative to construction starts."

The overall national unemployment rate edged down to 8.1% last month, from March's 8.2%, as the economy picked up 115,000 jobs.

BLS jobless rates for construction and other industries are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

April was the 16th-consecutive month in which construction's unemployment rate was better than the year-earlier level.

But construction's rate was the second-worst among major industries. Only agriculture ranked higher, at 16%.