Construction began 2015 with upbeat employment figures, adding 39,000 jobs in January, pushing the industry’s unemployment rate down to 9.8%, well below the year-earlier level.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest monthly employment report, released on Feb. 6, showed that construction’s jobless rate last month fell from January 2014’s 12.3% but was up from December’s 8.3%.

The month-to-month change probably reflected the industry’s usual winter work slowdown; the BLS rates are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

All construction sectors recorded increased employment last month. Buildings construction jumped by 19,500, specialty trades firms added 13,300 and heavy-civil construction gained 5,900, BLS reported.

Architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS industry category from construction, added 7,800  jobs in January.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, noted that with January’s increase, construction employment was more then 6.3 million, its highest level since February 2009.

Simonson said in a statement, “Contractors have stayed busy this winter and expect to keep hiring through 2015—if they can find the workers they need.” He added, “The list of projects is growing in most states and most nonresidential segments, in addition to continuing strong demand for apartment buildings.”

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement, “Construction added more jobs than all but one sector of the economy”—retail trade. Professional services tied with construction, each gaining 39,000 in January.

Basu added that  the BLS report “provides additional evidence that the economic momentum generated during the final nine months of 2014 will persist into 2015.”

More broadly, BLS reported the U.S. economy added 257,000 jobs last month, but the unemployment rate edged up to 5.7% from December’s 5.6%, as more than 700,000 people entered the labor force, Basu observed.