Construction added a strong 58,000 jobs in February and the industry’s unemployment rate showed a mixed pattern, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.
The most positive news in the BLS report, released on March 10, was the significant expansion in the construction workforce, which came in all industry segments. Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors chief economist, noted that the industry's February jobs gain was the largest monthly increase since 2007.
Specialty trade contractors led the monthly jobs gains, adding 36,400, according to preliminary BLS figures. Heavy and civil engineering construction posted an increase of 15,100; buildings construction was up by 5,900.
On a year-over-year basis, construction’s workforce rose by 219,000, or 3%.
But the industry’s February unemployment rate edged up to 8.8%, from the year-earlier 8.7%—the second-straight year-over-year increase. On the other hand, the February rate was an improvement over January’s 9.4%.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS separates from the construction category, saw a pickup of 4,500 jobs during February.
Construction economists said mild February weather probably was one factor behind the jump in jobs during the months, but not the entire reason.
The BLS rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal differences. Construction’s unemployment rate tends to increase in winter months and drop as the volume of work picks up in the spring and summer months.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement: "Data suggest there are now more jobseekers looking to participate in the construction sector’s ongoing recovery. That has likely helped some construction firms fill jobs openings more quickly over the last two months."
AGC's Simonson observed that last month's year-over-year pickup in jobs tracks with the consruction industry's trend since last spring, "showing that the job gains in February were not solely weather-related."
Overall, the economy added 235,000 jobs last month and the national unemployment rate dipped to 4.7% from January’s 4.8%, BLS said. February’s level also was down from the year-earlier 4.9%.