Construction’s February unemployment rate continued to run well below year-earlier levels, dipping to 10.6% from February 2014’s 12.8%, as the industry gained 29,000 jobs during the month.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ look at last month’s employment picture, released on March 6, also showed that construction’s jobless rate increased from January’s 9.8%.
The BLS rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations. Winter storms may have been a factor in February’s month-to-month rise.
The jobs results were mixed among construction sectors. Specialty trades contractors added 27,200 jobs and buildings construction grew by 5,200.
But heavy-civil engineering construction's total fell by 3,700.
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, noted that construction employment has risen 5.3% since February 2014, to 6.35 million—the highest level in six years.
He also said that even though February's weather was "challenging" in many areas, construction workers' average weekly hours were up to 39.6 hours, from 39.0 in January, and their wages increased to $1,066 per week from $1,052.
Both indicators were at their highest levels since BLS started reporting those sets of data nine years ago, Simonson observed.
Another positive note, said Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, was that BLS revised January's estimated construction jobs gain upward by 10,000, to 39,000.
Basu said last month's downturn in heavy-civil construction "is likely a reflection of challenging weather, slowing oil production-related construction and trends in public capital spending."
Simonson also observed that "the highway funding outlook is shaky." The current short-term highway-transit authorization law expires on May 31 and uncertainty over federal roadbuilding aid has prompted some states to delay, or mull postponing, highway bid lettings.
Design firms are continuing to hire. Jobs in architectural and engineering services, a separate BLS industry category from construction, grew by 4,900 last month.
Overall, BLS said that the national unemployment rate declined to 5.5% from January’s 5.7% as the economy added 295,000 jobs.