The Associated General Contractors are calling construction employment "tepid," after the release of a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

According to the report released in July, construction employment has remained essentially unchanged for the fourth month in a row, at a seasonally adjusted 7.5 million.

"The seemingly stagnant job pool results from cross-cutting currents," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC. "Residential building and specialty trade construction employment fell by 25,000 since February, including a drop of 9,000 jobs just in June."

Simonson also said that non-residential building and specialty trade contractors added 44,000 workers over four months, including 9,000 in June.

"In fact, non-residential builders tell me they would like to do even more hiring but can't find enough qualified workers," he said. "The fifth subcategory of construction employment, heavy and civil engineering construction, slipped by 8,000 jobs since February."

Simonson cautioned that residential building and heavy construction figures have been distorted by "front loading" that occurred in January, when record warm and dry weather allowed hiring for outdoor work such as excavation and concrete pouring to be accelerated by several months.

Nevertheless, Simonson said that a clear shift is occurring in construction.

"Sectors such as manufacturing, energy and mining, and hospitals are adding jobs and facilities, activity that generates non-residential construction jobs. Meanwhile, single-family and condominium construction are slowing, and employment in these sectors will drop faster once the backlog of current projects is finished," he said.

A July 5 broadcast discussing the latest construction spending trends can be found at the AGC Web site, www.agc.org/podcast.

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