ARLINGTON, VA - Payroll employment in the construction industry in March rose by 15,000, seasonally adjusted, the first gain since June 2007, according to federal employment figures released today.

The Associated General Contractors of America hailed the increase but cautioned it may not be sustained.

“This upturn was shared among all three nonresidential categories—building construction, specialty trade contractors, and heavy and civil engineering construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But both nonresidential and residential construction employment remain lower than in January, suggesting some of the pickup may have been a short-term rebound from exceptionally severe weather in February.”

Simonson noted that the industry’s unemployment rate, which is not seasonally adjusted, dropped slightly from 27.1% in February to 24.9% in March but remained more than double the all-industry level. “The persistence of depression-like unemployment in construction is ominous for an industry that already faced challenges retaining and attracting skilled crafts workers and supervisors.”

Simonson pointed out that the industry continues to outpace the overall economy in wage rates. Hourly earnings for all workers in construction in March averaged $25.27, seasonally adjusted, 12.5% higher than the average for all nonfarm payroll workers. Craft workers averaged $23.18 or 23% more than all production and nonsupervisory workers.

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