The construction industry’s jobless rate leveled off in August at 9.1%, the same as July’s rate, but improved from the August 2012 mark of 11.3%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.

The BLS August employment numbers, released on Sept. 6, showed that construction’s jobs total last month also was flat, compared with July’s figure.

The August bright spots among construction sectors were residential specialty trade contractors, which gained 4,900 jobs, and heavy-civil engineering construction, which added 1,200.

All other segments posted job losses, led by non-residential building, which shed 3,300 last month.

Architectural and engineering services, which BLS lists separately from construction, lost 400 jobs in August, the second-straight monthly decline for that sector.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said, "After a strong rebound in 2012, construction hiring and spending have been stuck in neutral through most of 2013." But he also said last month's construction jobless rate was the lowest August mark since 2008, which suggests experienced workers have left the business.

"As a result," Simonson added, "firms are already having trouble finding workers." 

BLS reported that the overall U.S. unemployment rate edged downward to 7.3%, from July’s 7.4%, as the economy added 169,000 jobs.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said the August numbers were "somewhat disappointing," but added that they could prompt the Federal Reserve to slow down possible future tightening of the money supply.

Basu added, "That likely would help stabilize interest rates, an important ingredient if the nonresidential construction industry is to perform as well as expected next year."


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