Construction’s unemployment rate rose in February to 12.8% from January’s 12.3%, but the industry continued to add jobs, picking up 15,000 in the month.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest monthly employment report, released on March 7, also showed that construction’s jobless rate improved markedly from its February 2013 level of 15.7%.

Last month’s rate was the industry’s lowest February figure since 2008.

The BLS unemployment rates for construction and other individual industries are not adjusted for seasonal swings. Construction’s jobless rate tends to climb in winter months, when the volume of work slows in much of the U.S.

The industry’s job gains last month were concentrated in the heavy and civil engineering sector, which added 12,300 positions.

Residential and nonresidential segments posted mixed jobs results. Residential building added 3,400 positions, but residential special trade contractors lost 1,700.

Nonresidential building companies shed 3,300 jobs, but nonresidential specialty trade firms gained 3,700.

BLS also revised its already-strong preliminary January 2014 construction jobs total further upward, to a gain of 50,000, from the initially reported pickup of 48,000.

Another positive note came in architectural and engineering services, which added 3,200 jobs in February. BLS lists A-E services separately from construction.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, noted that construction’s February total employment was up 2.6% from the year-earlier level, to a total of more than 5.9 million.

Simonson continues to warn of possible worker shortages facing the industry. He said, “Because persistently severe winter weather delayed many projects in the past few months, contractors are likely to be posting ‘help wanted’ signs on even more jobsites this spring.”

Simonson expects that the need for workers will be especially heavy in the multifamily housing, manufacturing and oil-and-gas-related sectors.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, noted that the nonresidential sector, excluding heavy and civil, added a disappointing 400 jobs in February after a BLS-revised gain of 26,000 in January. He said, "It remains likely that nonresidential construction employment gains will snap back with the weather during the second quarter of 2014."

Over all, BLS said, the national unemployment rate edged up last month to 6.7% from January's 6.6%, though the economy added 175,000 jobs.


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