Construction unemployment falls to 17.3 percent

Despite being in the height of the construction season, the nation’s nonresidential building construction sector shed 1,800 jobs in July, according to the August 6 employment report by the Department of Labor. July’s construction unemployment rate declined to 17.3 percent, down from 18.2 percent last year.

Since July 2009, 38,700 nonresidential construction jobs, or 5.4 percent, have been lost. The residential building construction sector lost 9,900 jobs last month.

“The data also indicate that construction job losses have slowed dramatically, particularly in those segments powered by the stimulus package passed in February 2009,” says Associated Building and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Still, this news provides stakeholders little comfort since the eventual exhaustion of stimulus support will become increasingly apparent in construction employment data next year.”

Nonresidential specialty trade contractors gained 8,000 jobs in July, although the sector’s job force is down 8.5 percent from a year ago.

Overall, the construction industry shed 11,000 jobs in July and lost 376,000 jobs during the past 12 months. Since the beginning of the recession, the industry has lost 1.9 million jobs, a drop of 25.6 percent. The national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent in July.