The construction industry’s unemployment rate improved in November, falling to 8.6% from October’s 9%, and also was down sharply from the December 2012 rate of 12.2%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.

The latest BLS status report on the nation’s employment, released on Dec. 6, also notes that construction gained 17,000 jobs in November.

All construction sectors posted jobs increases last month, led by residential specialty trade contractors, which added 7,100, and nonresidential specialty trade firms, which gained 5,400 positions.

Heavy and civil engineering construction recorded the smallest jobs pickup among the industry's segments, expanding by just 200.

Architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS category, added 1,000 jobs in November.

The Associated General Contractors of America noted that the November construction job gains boosted total construction employment to 5.85 million, the industry’s highest mark since August 2009.

Ken Simonson, AGCA chief economist, called the latest jobs numbers “very encouraging,” but also said “growth remains uneven by segment, region and time period.” Moreover, the association noted that construction’s total workforce still lags its August 2006 peak by almost 1.9 million.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said the nonresidential sector gain of 7,700 jobs in November was encouraging. The total reflects the specialty trades' pickup of 5,400 plus nonresidential bulidings' addition of 2,300.

Basu said, "November is the third consecutive month nonresidential construction experienced job growth , which is positive after seeing job losses April through August."

The overall U.S. unemployment rate declined to 7% last month from October’s 7.3%, as the economy added 203,000 jobs. November's rate is the lowest monthly level since November 2008’s 6.8%.