Construction’s unemployment rate continued to improve in April, falling to 13.2% from 14.7% in March. However, the industry lost 6,000 jobs last month.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest monthly employment report, released on May 3, also shows that construction’s April jobless rate declined from the year-earlier level of 14.5%.
But the 8,500 jobs gained in the industry's residential sector were not enough to offset losses in non-residential categories. The non-residential specialty-trade contractor segment was hit hardest, shedding 11,100 positions. Heavy-civil engineering construction lost 3,800 jobs.
Still, Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America's chief economist, says total construction employment has risen by 154,000, or 2.7%, since April 2012.
He also notes that the industry’s jobless rate this past month was the best April number since 2008, when it was 11.1%. BLS unemployment rates are not adjusted for seasonal variations.
Simonson says, “It is heartening to see that both non-residential and residential segments of the construction industry added significant numbers of workers in the last 12 months, even though gains from March to April were limited to the residential side.”
Another bright spot is architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS category from construction, which added 2,700 jobs in April.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors' chief economist, says the April BLS construction report “reinforces the notion that sustained recovery remains elusive.” Construction's 13.2% unemployment rate for April is the highest among U.S. industries. It also is the only industry to post a jobless rate higher than 10%.
But Basu adds, “There are many projects in various stages of planning, and the expectation is that the non-residential construction labor market will strengthen later this year.”
Over all, BLS reported, the U.S. economy picked up 165,000 jobs in April, nudging the unemployment rate down to 7.5% from March’s 7.6%.