Construction's employment picture was mixed in March, as the industry recorded its first overall monthly job losses in 14 months, but also posted declines in its unemployment rate.

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly employment report, released on April 7, showed that construction shed 9,000 jobs overall in March, its first dip since January 2022.

BLS reported that the heavy and civil engineering construction segment posted the best results, adding 7,100 positions last month. Residential building also was up, by a modest 800 jobs. 

But those gains were outweighed by losses of 13,900 in the residential and nonresidential specialty trade contractors categories. The nonresidential building category also shed 2,800.

Still, construction employment continued to grow on an annual basis, rising by 196,000, or 2.5%, to a total of 7,888,000.

The jobs numbers are preliminary and BLS sometimes revises them upward or downward in the next couple of months after its initial report.

Jobless Rate Down

BLS reported that construction’s March unemployment rate fell to 5.6%, from February’s 6.6% and also improved from the year-earlier 6%.

The BLS jobs figures are adjusted for seasonal swings; the bureau’s unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.

AGC, ABC Economists' Analyses

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said in a statement, "Despite a small dip in headcount, construction firms continued to post a high level of job openings and raised pay more than other industries—two signs they still want to hire more workers."

Simonson added, "But the pool of unemployed, experienced jobseekers keeps shrinking for the construction sector."

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement that the increase in heavy-civil construction "masks more substantial weakness in private segments."

Basu says private-sector categories "tend to be most affected by slowing economic growth, deteriorating confidence and concerns regarding the nation's banking system."

He says, "Recession remains a likely outcome within the next 12 months."

Overall, the U.S. economy added 236,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate slipped slightly, to 3.5%, from February's 3.6%, BLS reported.