The construction industry’s unemployment rate continues to improve, dropping to 9.1% in July from June’s 9.8%, but the industry also shed 6,000 jobs as losses in the nonresidential sector outpaced residential-segment gains.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest monthly employment report, released on Aug. 2, also showed that construction’s July jobless rate was down markedly from the July 2012 level of 12.3%.

Last month’s 9.1% was the industry’s lowest monthly mark since August 2008, when it stood at 8.2%. The rates are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said, "While the industry has added workers in the past year,  employment growth has been negligible recently."

The BLS statistics on July construction jobs reflected a split between residential and nonresidential markets. 

The residential specialty trades contractors and residential buildings categories added a combined 6,300 jobs in July. But that failed to offset the 9,800 shed by nonresidential specialty trade contractors and the 2,000 that heavy and civil engineering construction lost.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said the specialty trade contractors sector "had been recovering nicely, but now appears to be feeling the effects of an economy growing at less than 2%." He says the job losses in the heavy-civil category may partly reflect the impact of federal budget sequestration.

Another disheartening note was that the architectural and engineering services industry, which BLS lists separately from construction, recorded a job loss of 2,700. A-E jobs generally had been rising in recent months.

Over all, BLS reported, the national unemployment rate declined to 7.4% in July, from June’s 7.6%, as the economy added 162,000 jobs. The July 2012 rate was 8.2%.

Updated 3 pm 8/2/13 with comments from Associated General Contractors of America, Associated Builders and Contractors


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