The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that construction employment increased for the third month in a row, with a gain of 26,000 jobs in May. Job losses in the industry totaled 160,000 from March 2001 to February 2003. Since February, construction has gained 83,000 jobs, as strength in residential housing caused growth in specialty trade contractors and construction of buildings.

The three BLS construction subcategories showed a mixture of improvement and decline. Building construction employed 1,622,000, up 42,000 (2.6%), and specialty trade contractors employed 4,259,000, up 53,000 (1.3%), while heavy and civil engineering construction employed 901,000, down 27,000 (2.9%) since May 2002.

The Census report on value of construction put in place also showed mixed results. The traditional classification showed a decline of .3% seasonally adjusted, from March to April, even though April’s level was .7% ahead of April 2002. But a newer classification that uses different seasonal factors showed a .7% increase from March to April and a 1.1% gain from a year ago. Actual year-to-date totals, which are identical for the two systems because they don’t incorporate adjustments, were up .9%. Year-to-date residential construction was up 10%, private nonresidential building and nonbuilding construction was down 13%, and public construction was virtually flat.