Construction employment in the US declined by 16,000 in December, according figures released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

AGC officials noted that the decline in employment was possibly impacted by cold weather, but also reflected underlying weakness in the construction sector.

“Given the variability of weather, especially in winter, the downturn in December is not cause for alarm,” said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. “The data does show how uneven the recovery remains with residential construction doing very well, but the public sector remains weak and private non-residential construction is mixed.”

Construction employment totalled 5,833,000 in December, an increase of 122,000 from a year earlier. However, while employment grew by 2.1% during the past year, construction employment remains nearly 1.9 million below the sector’s April 2006 peak.

The AGC figures showed that the unemployment rate for workers actively looking for jobs and last employed in construction declined from 13.5% in December 2012 to 11.4% last month.

Non-residential construction companies lost 22,900 new jobs in December while residential firms added 6,200 jobs. Non-residential specialty trade contractors lost 12,900 jobs for the month - the most of any segment, while heavy and civil engineering firms lost 8,800 jobs, the second most. Residential building contractors added 4,800 jobs.

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