The U.S. construction industry lost 6,000 net jobs in August, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). BLS also revised July’s estimate from 14,000 net new jobs to 11,000 net new jobs, meaning the industry has shed 25,000 net jobs since April after adding 68,000 through the first three months of the year.

The nonresidential sector lost 10,700 net jobs in August after adding 9,600 jobs in July. The construction industry’s unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent in August but is still down 3.4 percent from the beginning of 2016.

abc“Today’s downbeat employment data came less than 24 hours after yesterday’s relatively upbeat nonresidential construction spending report,” says ABC chief economist Anirban Basu. “This pattern of good news followed by bad news is nothing new and continues to paint a confusing picture for nonresidential construction activity in the U.S.”

Basu says most contractors continue to report positive backlog and that margins are thicker now than several years ago. Additionally, construction firms remain concerned about a lack of appropriately trained workers, and construction wage costs are rising.

“These are all signs of an industry that remains busy,” he says. “However, the data are also consistent with the notion that the pace of expansion in nonresidential construction activity has slowed. Nonresidential construction spending has expanded by less than 2 percent over the past year.”

He adds, “Survey data regarding commercial real estate lending standards indicate that lending standards are beginning to tighten. While spending in office, lodging, and commercial categories has expanded significantly over the past year, the pace of growth is beginning to be constrained by a combination of regulatory pressures and growing concerns regarding overbuilding in certain key communities and product segments.”

Basu also notes that job growth in other key sectors “may be tempting some construction workers away from the industry, helping to explain continued low industry unemployment despite the job losses experienced in recent months.”

The national unemployment rate remained unchanged for a third consecutive month and stands at 4.9 percent. The labor force expanded by 176,000 persons in August and has grown by roughly one million persons over the past three months. Labor force participation stands at 62.8 percent.