Construction lost 20,000 jobs in May—its third consecutive monthly decline—but the industry’s unemployment rate improved from the April and year-earlier levels, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.

The latest BLS monthly employment report, released on June 4, shows that all but one of the nonresidential construction segments lost jobs in May.

Construction's overall May losses follow decreases of 5,000 in April and 7,000 in March, according to preliminary BLS figures.

Among construction sectors, nonresidential specialty trade contractors shed the most jobs in May, with a loss of 16,800. The heavy and civil engineering sector, which reflects infrastructure work, lost 5,500.

But nonresidential building recorded a modest gain of 500 jobs, according to BLS. Residential building, which has seen robust activity recently, added 4,400 positions in May.

Construction’s total workforce in May was down by 225,000 positions, or 2.9%, from the pre-pandemic level of February 2020, according to the BLS report.

The jobless rate improved notably, though, falling to 6.7% from April’s 7.7%. The rate also was down sharply from the May 2020 mark of 12.7%, during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The issue is not demand for workers, it is supply," Anirban Basu, chief economist for the Associated Builders and Contractors, said in a statement.   "The number of available, unfilled job openings in construction has been rising rapidly in recent months, but employment gains proved elusive in May."

Overall, the economy added 559,000 jobs in May, with the national unemployment rate dipping to 5.8% from 6.1% in April. May’s rate also was far below the year-earlier level of 13.3%, BLS said.

The BLS totals for jobs lost and added are adjusted for seasonal variations. The unemployment rates aren’t seasonally adjusted.

Story corrected on 6/8/2021: Not all nonresidential construction segments lost jobs in May; the nonresidential building segment added 500 jobs in the month, the BLS report says.