Construction's employment picture continues to brighten, as its April jobless rate fell to 9.4% from March’s 11.3% and its workforce expanded by 32,000 jobs.
The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly employment report, released on May 2, also showed that construction’s unemployment rate last month was much better than its April 2013 level of 13.2%.
April's construction-jobs growth spanned all industry sectors, led by buildings construction, which gained 11,000.
The heavy and civil engineering segment wasn’t far behind, adding 10,500 jobs. Specialty trades contractors also gained 10,200.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS lists as a separate industry from construction, posted an increase of 3,200 jobs.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, noted that construction's overall employment rose 3.3%, to 6 million, since April 2013.
"It is heartening that all categories of construction employers added workers, not only in April but over the past 12 months," Simonson said. "Moreover, contractors have been adding to workers' hours as well as hiring more employees."
Terry O'Sullivan, Laborers' International Union of North America general president, noted that the latest BLS report showed a positive trend. But he warned that the rebound "is fragile," and pointed to the need to reauthorize federal surface-transportation programs.
O'Sullivan said, "Already states are cutting projects due to uncertainty about whether Congress will act or continue with the duct-tape approach to our nation's transportation infrastructure, which threatens jobs and public safety."
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said, "I expect construction employment to show marked improvement in the second quarter now that it is clear that the sluggish first-quarter numbers were an aberration brought about by the unusually harsh winter."
BLS doesn’t adjust the construction unemployment rate for seasonal variations. The industry’s work volume and labor force tend to rise in spring and summer months.
The overall U.S. unemployment rate also declined in April, to 6.3% from March’s 6.7% as the economy added a strong 288,000 jobs. The April level was the lowest monthly figure since September 2008’s 6.1%.
Updated p.m. May 2 to include AGC, laborers' union and ABC comments