As the construction industry moves into the heart of its building season, its unemployment rate continues to fall and its workforce is increasing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest monthly report shows.

The BLS employment report for July, released on Aug. 7,  says that construction’s jobless rate dropped to 5.5% from June’s 6.3%, and also was down markedly from the year-earlier level of 7.5%.

The rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.

BLS also reported that the industry added 6,000 jobs during the month.

Job gains of 6,000 in residential building and 2,900 in heavy-civil construction offset declines in nonresidential segments.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said that it was encouraging to see construction’s workforce rise to 6.38 million, its highest level since February 2009.

But he added, “The sector’s job gains in the past five months have been intermittent and relatively sluggish despite signs of accelerating demand for construction.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said, “The slump in energy sector investment continues to lead to job loss in the nonresidential construction sector.”

But he also observed that nonresidential categories’ job totals are up, year over year. For example, nonresidential specialty trade contractors gained 60,000 jobs in July, compared with their year-earlier level.

BLS also reported that the overall national employment rate in July was 5.3%, the same as in June. The economy added 215,000 jobs during the month.