Many participants in the ongoing discussion (, , , , , etc) on international comparisons of the evolution of output and employment have raised the point that construction employment has played a more prominent role than usual in the most recent recession.
I've put together a few graphs that may be useful. I'd also like to point out that the original problem that Nick put forward was to come up with a story for why the US was so different that didn't amount to saying 'The US is different.'
Ex-construction employment in the G7 plus Spain and Ireland and minus France, Italy and Japan:
The ratio of construction and ex-construction employment in the G7 plus Spain and Ireland and minus France, Italy and Japan:
I don't have a fully-formed story to tell here, but maybe these will help move the discussion along.