For the first time in nearly three years, the construction industry gained jobs, adding 15,000 positions in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly employment numbers released Friday.

That translates into 5,592,000 jobs for the industry and a significant piece of economic news for the sector, which has lost an average of 72,000 jobs monthly during the past year. (The construction industry, as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, includes residential and commercial builders, specialty trade contractors, civil engineers, and other related professions.)

Unfortunately, the growth didn’t come from the home building side of the business. Residential construction, a subset of building construction, lost 800 jobs in March, falling to total employment of 585,200 positions. Total jobs for residential specialty trade contractors slipped by 9,300 jobs to 1.543 million.

But there are some signs of hope in the larger economy.

According to the data, the country added 162,000 jobs last month, which “suggests that the economy has broken through to sustained job creation,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. “The key figure is not the 162,000 jobs headline for March, because that was artificially boosted by temporary Census hiring and by a bounce after February's snow storms. What matters is that between January and March…. the economy added 131,000 private-sector jobs.”

The unemployment rate was unchanged in March compared to the previous month, with a reading of 9.7%

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.