State Construction Unemployment Rates Down in 45 States from a Year Ago, Says ABC

The not seasonally adjusted national construction unemployment rate was down 2.6% in June 2021 from a year ago and 45 states had lower unemployment rates over the same period, according to state-by-state analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors. Although not back to pre-pandemic levels, both overall employment and construction employment have demonstrated significant improvement during the past year.

National NSA construction employment was up 233,000 from June 2020. Nonetheless, seasonally adjusted construction employment remained 238,000, or 3.1%, below its February 2020 peak, before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect the employment numbers. This was better than national SA nonfarm payroll employment, which was 4.4% below its February 2020 peak as of June.  

The national NSA construction unemployment rate went from 5.5% in February 2020 to 7.5% in June 2021. During that same period, 21 states had lower estimated NSA construction unemployment rates and 29 had higher rates.

“The widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines and the economy’s bounce back are boosting the construction industry,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “The strength of the economic recovery will be tested in coming months by the delta variant and as the outflow of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act starts to dry up. Congress is working to address the nation’s long-standing need to repair and upgrade its infrastructure, and a qualified workforce will be necessary to get the infrastructure built. Yet a skilled workforce shortage persists. If a commonsense, bipartisan infrastructure bill is enacted into law, the economy, the construction industry and the construction workforce will benefit.”

Recent Month-to-Month Fluctuations

Because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, national and state unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis. However, due to the changing impact from the COVID-19 pandemic and related shifts in public policy, month-to-month comparisons are useful.

The vagaries of the pandemic’s impact and the uneven recovery both affected the June construction unemployment rate. In most years, the June national NSA construction unemployment rate is down from May. This year, it was up by 0.8%, only the third time that the June rate has increased from May since the data series began in 2000. Among the states, only eight had lower estimated construction unemployment rates than in May; 42 states had higher rates.

The Top Five States

The states with the lowest June 2021 estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:

1. Nebraska, 1.4%

2. Idaho, 1.8%

3. Utah, 2%

4. Georgia, 2.7%

5. South Dakota, 2.9%

Three of these states were in the top five in May 2021—Idaho, Nebraska and Utah. Nebraska, which had the lowest construction unemployment rate among the states, had its lowest June rate on record. This is the fourth month in a row that the state has set an all-time low for the month. Idaho, with the second lowest rate, also had its lowest June rate since June 2017 when it was 1.5%. Georgia, with the fourth lowest rate, posted its lowest June rate on record.

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The Bottom Five States

The states with the highest June 2021 estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:

46. California and West Virginia (tie), 11.3%

48. New York, 12.3%

49. New Mexico, 13.5%

50. New Jersey, 13.6%

All of these states were in the bottom five in May.

Click here to view graphs of overall unemployment rates (Tab 1) and construction unemployment rates (Tab 2) showing the impact of the pandemic, including a graphing tool that creates a chart for multiple states.

To better understand the basis for calculating unemployment rates and what they measure, see the article Background on State Construction Unemployment Rates. Visit abc.org/economics for more analysis of spending, employment, GDP and the Producer Price Index.

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