The amount contractors pay for a range of key construction materials dropped 0.6 percent in October, but climbed 6.9 percent from the year-earlier level, according to an analysis from the Associated General Contractors of America. Meanwhile, the price contractors charge for new nonresidential building construction edged up only 3.3 to 4.3 percent over 12 months, depending on building type.

“While the gap is beginning to narrow just a bit, prices for most construction materials have risen far more during the past year than the amount contractors can charge for completing construction projects,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Coupled with weak growth in demand for construction, the price gap is likely contributing to the stagnant employment levels the industry has been experiencing all year.”

Simonson noted that prices for a number of key construction materials declined during the past month. For example, prices for diesel fuel dropped 2.2 percent in October, but are up 27.3 percent since October 2010.

“Costs for essential construction materials are likely to remain volatile, causing financial difficulties for some contractors, who must guarantee prices to owners months before purchasing materials,” said Simonson.