Construction employment jumped by the largest monthly amount in nearly seven years in January, bringing industry employment to the highest level since July 2009, according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). “Despite a second month of unusually severe weather in much of the nation, contractors more than offset the job losses that occurred in December,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “All segments of the industry added workers for the month, and the sector has increased employment at nearly double the all-industry rate in the past 12 months.”

Construction employment totaled 5,922,000 in January, the highest total in 4-1/2 years and an increase of 48,000 from a month earlier—the largest one-month gain since April 2007, according to the report. For the year, construction employment rose by 179,000 or 3.1 percent, compared with an increase of 1.7 percent for total nonfarm payroll employment.

Nonresidential construction firms added 31,300 new jobs in January and 57,100 (1.6 percent) over 12 months while residential firms added 16,800 jobs for the month and 121,400 (5.8 percent) over the year, according to the AGC.

“Construction demand for workers is likely to accelerate in 2014 as more projects relating to oil and gas, manufacturing, warehouse and hotel construction break ground while demand for residential work—especially apartments—remains strong,” Simonson says. “It will be a challenge for contractors in many regions and specialties to find enough employees to perform the work ahead.”