Construction’s jobless rate rose in September, to 11.9% from August’s 11.3%, although the industry added 5,000 jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The upturn in the construction rate was the first since March.

The latest BLS monthly unemployment statistics, released on Oct. 5, also showed that the construction jobless rate last month was down from the September 2011 level of 13.3%—the 24th-straight month of year-over-year improvement.

Construction officials focused on what the new BLS numbers indicated about the industry’s longer-term jobs picture. Officials from the Associated General Contractors of America and Associated Builders and Contractors point out that the industry has lost 5,000 jobs since September 2011.

Stephen Sandherr, AGC president and CEO, also notes that over the past six years, the industry has shed 2.2 million jobs, a drop of about 29%.

Construction’s 11.9% September rate also was the highest among U.S. industries, according to the BLS report. Sean McGarvey, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Dept., notes that with a jobless rate of more than 11%, the construction industry "continues to struggle," but he also observes that the rate has declined from a recent peak of 27.1%, in February 2010.

Looking at construction industry sectors, BLS reported that specialty trade contractors added 3,800 jobs in September and buildings construction picked up 2,200. The only segment to lose jobs was heavy-civil construction, in which the number of employees fell by 200.

Sandherr said, “It appears that for every rebounding market segment, there is another one that is shrinking.”

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said the dip in heavy-civil employment “is hardly a massive total." But he added that “the implication is that construction starts remain weak and it is unlikely we will see acceleration in nonresidential construction spending any time soon.”

Architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS category, gained 2,900 jobs last month.

The overall national unemployment rate posted a decline to 7.8% from 8.1% in August as the economy added 141,000 jobs.