The construction jobs picture continued to improve in March, as the industry added 18,000 jobs and its unemployment rate declined, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported. But the job gains were not as strong as in February.
The BLS monthly report, released on April 5, said construction’s March unemployment rate fell to 14.7%, from February’s 15.7%.
Last month’s rate also was better than the March 2012 level of 17.2% and was the lowest March figure since 2008.
The BLS rates are not adjusted for seasonal variations. As construction work increases in the spring and summer, the industry’s unemployment rate tends to improve.
Construction also continued to add jobs, BLS reported, as the industry gained 18,000 for the month.
But that increase was lower than construction’s strong pickup of 49,000 jobs in February. BLS revised the February mark upward by 1,000, compared with its initial preliminary number released last month.
Nearly all construction sectors gained jobs in March, paced by special trade contractors, which added 23,300. The exception was the heavy-civil construction segment, which lost 8,800 jobs in the month.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said that the drop in the industry's unemployment rate over the past five years "is less a result of the 370,000 construction hires than because more than a million and a half workers have left the industry since its peak by taking other jobs, retiring or leaving the workforce."
SImonson sees an increasing likelihood that there were be shortages of workers in such crafts as pipefitting, welding and some residential-construction jobs.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said that last month "construction held up better than a number of other industries in part because of Hurricane Sandy-related rebuilding and the fact that construction's cyclical timing tends to lag that of the broader economy."
But Basu cautioned that if the mandatory federal sequester's spending cuts affect the overall economy "construction will begin to feel the sting later this year."
BLS reported that the nation's overall jobless rate edged downward in March to 7.6%, from February's 7.7%.