Construction Unemployment Rates Improve in 38 States Year-Over-Year, ABC Says

November not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rates were down in 38 states and the nation on a year-over-year basis, according to analysis released by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The rates for two states, Kansas and Texas, were unchanged from November 2015. The national NSA construction unemployment rate of 5.7 percent was down 0.5 percent from a year ago and unchanged from October, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

This was the lowest national NSA November construction unemployment rate on record, matching the 5.7 percent rate in November 2005 and November 2000. Meanwhile, BLS data showed that the industry employed 159,000 more people than in November 2015.

“From October 2010 through November 2016, the NSA national construction unemployment rate has fallen from the previous year’s reading every month,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “These industry-specific unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted, so it is best to look at the national and state rates on a year-over-year basis. The continued decline on a year-over-year basis in the unemployment rate nationally and in the majority of state rates is an indication of the health of the construction job market and its recovery from the deep recession it experienced. The demand for skilled construction workers remains especially strong leading into 2017.”

The usual pattern for the change from October to November is an increase in the national NSA construction unemployment rate. Starting in 2000, when the BLS data for this series begins, through 2015, the November rate has risen 13 times, been unchanged once (in 2015) and fallen twice (in 2011 and 2013). This year the rate was unchanged from October.

This year, 24 states posted a decline in their estimated NSA construction unemployment rates from October, 25 states posted an increase and one state (Massachusetts) had no change. Taking Alaska’s October and November construction unemployment rates out of the mix, all of the other states’ rates have been under 10 percent since May, a record only previously observed from May 2000 through November 2000.

View states ranked by their construction unemployment rate, their year-over-year improvement in construction employment,and states unemployment rate for all industries.

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The Top Five States

The five states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest rate to highest they were:

  • 1. Massachusetts
  • 2. Utah
  • 3. New Hampshire
  • 4. Colorado
  • 5. Iowa

Four states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Utah — were also among the top five in October. Massachusetts had the lowest rate among the states in November with a 2.6 percent estimated NSA construction unemployment rate, the state’s lowest November rate on record going back to 2000 when the estimates begin. Utah, with a 2.8 percent construction unemployment rate, recorded its lowest November rate since 2007’s 2.2 percent rate. New Hampshire also posted its lowest November rate on record with a 3.4 percent rate. Colorado slipped from the third lowest NSA estimated construction unemployment rate in October to fourth lowest in November with a 3.5 percent rate, but recorded its lowest November rate since 2005. Iowa had the fifth lowest rate in November, with a 3.6 percent rate, in spite of posting a 0.4 percent year-over-year increase, the fourth largest among the states.

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The Bottom Five States

The five states with the highest NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest rates were:

  • 1. Pennsylvania
  • 2. Illinois
  • 3. Alabama
  • 4. New Mexico
  • 5. Alaska

Four of these states — Alaska, Alabama, New Mexico and Pennsylvania — were also among the five states with the highest construction unemployment rates in October. As in September and October, Alaska had the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate in November (15.3 percent). Alaska’s NSA rate has increased in November from October each year on record and this year followed the pattern with a 2.7 percent increase. New Mexico had the second highest construction unemployment rate in November at 9.5 percent, compared to third highest rate in October. Alabama had the third highest rate in November, 9.2 percent, and the second largest year-over-year increase in its rate (up 0.8 percent). Illinois had the fourth highest rate in November, but the state’s 9.1 percent rate was its lowest in November since 2007. Pennsylvania had the fifth highest estimated construction unemployment rate in November, 8.5 percent after posting the second highest rate, 8.8 percent, in October. Rhode Island, which had the fourth highest rate in October, had the sixth highest rate in November, 8 percent, its lowest November rate since 2007 when it was 7.2 percent.

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