Construction's March unemployment rate dropped by a full percentage point year-over-year and improved from February's level, but the industry also shed 15,000 positions during the month, the Dept. of Labor says.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest monthly employment status report, released on April 6, showed that construction's jobless rate plunged to 7.4% in March from the year-earlier 8.4% and also declined from February's 7.8%.
The rates aren't adjusted for seasonal differences.
The bad news was that the industry lost 15,000 jobs in March, as a gain in the buildings sector was far outpaced by a sharp drop in specialty trade contractors' payrolls and a smaller decline in the heavy-civil engineering construction segment, according to the BLS figures.
In February, the industry picked up a total of 65,000 jobs, BLS said.
But Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America, says the March job losses probably resulted from "unusually bad weather" in some areas of the U.S. He observes that construction's workforce increased by 228,000, or 3.3%, for the 12 months ended March 31.
Simonson also said in a statement, "Employment is rising twice as fast as for the overall economy, pay rates and growth are outpacing the private sector as a whole, and the industry's unemployment rate was the lowest ever for March."
Specialty trade firms lost 16,200 jobs last month and heavy-civil companies shed 3,600. The buildings sector expanded by 4,600, according to BLS.
Architectural and engineering services, which BLS separates from the construction industry category, also was down by 2,800.
The overall national unemployment rate for March was 4.1%, the same as in February, and an improvement over the March 2017 level of 4.5%.
The economy added 103,000 jobs last month, which was far below the February gain of 326,000.
Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors' chief economist, called the overall March jobs gains "disappointing." He added in a statement, "The weak jobs report increases the probability that uncertainty attributable to policy pronouncements emerging from Washington and Beijing can trip up an economic expansion that should be proceeding swimmingly in the context of recently enacted tax reform."