The American construction industry has fallen on its hardest times since the Great Depression, shedding 75,000 jobs last month and single-handedly dragging February U.S. national employment figures into the red, according to data. Construction-sector unemployment rates remained near 25%, with desperate contractors forced to place low, and even below-cost, bids for public-work projects. "It's just dog-eat-dog right now," says one contractor. "People are just in survival mode."

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