Construction industry’s jobless rate continues to decline, dipping to 8.6% in May from 9.4% the previous month, as the industry added 6,000 jobs.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics latest employment report, released on June 6, also showed that construction’s jobless rate last month improved from its May 2013 level of 10.8%.

Moreover, last month’s rate was the best May since 2008, when it also was 8.6%.
The BLS rates are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

The industry’s jobs results were mixed among its various sectors. The strongest segments were heavy-civil engineering construction and residential specialty trades contractors, which each picked up 3,200 positions.

The weakest were nonresidential buildings and nonresidential specialty trades, which combined to shed a modest 500 jobs.

Another bright signal came from architectural and engineering services, which gained 4,500 jobs last month. BLS categorizes A-E services separately from construction.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, noted that construction's total employment rose by 188,000, or 3.2% in the 12 months ended May 31.

But Simonson warned that if Congress fails to rescue the ailing Highway Trust Fund, it would have a major impact on construction employment. The trust fund's highway account is projected to fall into a deficit position this summer.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said the May job losses in nonresidential construction "came as a surprise." He noted that the sector added 12,600 positions in April.

Basu said that construction spending growth has been "tepid" for months and added that the industry's jobless rate is expected to be "more or less unchanged over the coming months."

BLS also reported that the overall U.S. unemployment rate held flat in May, at 6.3%, though the economy added 217,000 jobs.

Story corrected on June 9 to note that nonresidential specialty trades was one of the weakest sectors.