Construction’s jobless rate continues to improve, dropping to 7% in September, its lowest level in more than six years, as the industry added 16,000 jobs in the month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
According to the latest BLS monthly employment report, released on Oct. 3, construction’s jobless rate last month was down from August’s 7.7% and well below the September 2013 mark of 8.5%.
September’s 7% rate was the lowest since November 2007, when it stood at 6.2%.
Nearly all construction sectors added jobs in September, led by specialty trade contractors, which picked up 8,800 compared with August’s total. Buildings construction gained 6,200.
But heavy-civil engineering construction added only 500 positions and the nonresidential building segment’s total jobs were flat compared with August’s level.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS categorizes separately from construction, saw jobs increase by 6,000 last month.
The BLS unemployment rates are not adjusted for seasonal differences. Construction is highly seasonal, with the volume of work strongest in warm-weather months and weaker in the winter.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said the September numbers confirm that "nonresidential construction's expansion continues to be a moderate one." That part of the industry added just 3,700 jobs last month.
Basu said, "Most people will cheer the unemployment rate decline for good reason." But he added that "lower unemployment could make it more difficult for employers to secure skilled labor and could lead to an increase in interest rates next year."
Stephen E. Sandherr, Associated General Contractors of America CEO, said, "While we are eager to see even more construction employment gains, there is no denying the fact that the industry has been in recovery mode for much of the past three years.
AGC also said that as business conditions have improved, more contractors are reporting that they are having difficulty finding enough qualified workers to fill positions.
In its report, BLS said that the overall U.S. jobless rate declined to 5.9% in September from 6.1% the previous month, as the economy added 248,000 jobs.
Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions, welcomed the decrease in the unemployment rate. But he was quick to note that the Commerce Dept. reported Oct. 1 that August construction spending was down—the second decline in three months—including dips in residential and nonresidential work in the public and private sectors.
McGarvey added, "The September jobs report is, indeed, good news. But it must be mitigated by the fact that other significant economic data indicate that the U.S. economy remains mired in a lukewarm and drawn-out economic recovery."
Terry O'Sullivan, Laborers' International Union of North America general president, said that the BLS report shows "small gains" in construction employment, but he also noted that the industry's jobless rate continues to trail the overall U.S. rate.