Construction employment in August and construction spending in July both saw steady growth, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

The group cites U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that identify the construction industry as accounting for 17,000 of the 128,000 new jobs in August.

“Over the past 12 months, all five BLS construction categories have grown faster than the tepid 1.3 percent growth rate for overall employment,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC. “Nonresidential building and specialty trades were both 4 percent higher, residential building climbed 3 percent, and residential specialty trades and heavy and civil engineering both added 2 percent. In a favorable omen for future construction, employment in architectural and engineering services rose again, bringing the 12-month gain to a robust 5 percent.”

Simonson also said that the census report on value of construction put in place showed a sharp 1.2 percent drop in the seasonally annual rate from June to July, but private nonresidential spending increased again.

“For the first seven months of 2006 compared to the same period of 2005, private nonresidential spending has risen an impressive 16 percent and public construction 10 percent,” said Simonson. “Even residential construction is still 4 percent ahead of last year’s total for the first seven months, although I don’t expect the final residential total for the year to be up.”

The major subcategories of private construction spending included lodging, which was up 46 percent; multi-retail and general merchandise stores up 38 percent; hospitals up 27 percent; manufacturing up 24 percent: and multifamily residential buildings up 20 percent.

“Office construction is also gaining momentum with a 12 percent increase, and electrical power construction is reviving with an 8 percent rise,” said Simonson.

He said that he expects nonresidential construction to maintain its pace.

“Private residential construction will be a mix of increasing rental projects and sharply falling single-family and condo construction,” Simonson continued. “Public agencies will spend somewhat more, but many agencies will have to defer or redesign projects for which material costs outstrip their budgets.”