Cold weather is partly blamed for a 16,000-job decline in construction industry employment during December 2013, according to the Associated General Contractors.

The industry’s overall unemployment rate fell to 11.4 percent.

“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 nonresidential construction is mixed.” 

Still, there are reasons for optimism for this year, Stephen E. Sandherr, the AGC’s chief executive officer, pointed out.

“If the economy continues to expand and Washington can work together to make needed infrastructure investments, firms should be able to add significantly more jobs in 2014,” Sandherr said. “But Congress and the administration need to set aside partisan differences and find a way to work together in the interest of our economy.”