Construction was among the industries that reported increased employment levels in September, according to the latest employment statistics from the Dept. of Labor.

The Labor Dept.’s monthly employment report for September, released Oct. 22, found that overall, total non-farm payroll employment rose by 148,000 in September, and the unemployment rate was virtually unchanged at 7.2 %.

Construction, wholesale trade, and transportation and warehousing all saw employment increases.

The construction sector added 20,000 new jobs in September, after showing little change in the prior six months. Moreover, the unemployment rate in the construction industry fell to a six-year low of 8.5%.

Construction employment totaled 5,826,000 in September, a gain of 20,000 from the August tally, which was revised up by 8,000 from the Labor Department’s initial estimate. The September figure is 3.4 % higher than in September 2012, while aggregate weekly hours of all construction employees rose 4.2 percent over the year, indicating that companies are adding to existing workers’ hours in addition to hiring new employees, according to an analysis by Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors.

Moreover, the latest data from the Census bureau, also released on Oct. 22, showed that total construction spending increased for the fifth consecutive month. Total construction spending climbed 0.6% in August in residential, private, nonresidential and public construction.

Anirban Basu, chief economist at the Associated Builders and Contractors, says, “After a 5-month losing streak, nonresidential employment bounced back in September. Every major segment of nonresidential construction exhibited job growth, including nonresidential specialty trade contractors, which accounted for roughly a third of jobs added by the sector.”  

According to Simonson, the significant drop in construction unemployment could mean that construction firms could have trouble finding experienced workers if the volume of projects continues to expand, as it did in August.

Simonson also cautions that although both the Census and DOL reports indicate that the industry was doing “relatively well” before the federal government shutdown, but the shutdown “likely disrupted a wide variety of projects and may have caused private investors and developers to delay decisions about new projects or plant expansions. As a result, future spending and hiring gains may be weaker.”