Construction Unemployment Rates Improve in 25 States Year-over-Year in February

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 5Construction unemployment rates were down in 25 states and unchanged in four in February on a year-over-year basis, according to analysis released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The national not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rate of 8.8 percent was up 0.1 percent from February 2016, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Since these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, the best approach is to evaluate the national and state-level unemployment rates on a year-over-year basis.

“Despite the slight downturn in the year-over-year NSA national construction unemployment rate, half the states had a reduction in their rates from a year ago,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Overall, the construction sector remains healthy even as employers struggle against the headwind of mounting shortages of skilled construction workers.”

In spite of the year-over-year rise, this was the second lowest national February NSA construction unemployment rate since February 2006 when the rate was 8.6 percent. Meanwhile, BLS data showed that the industry employed 219,000 more workers than in February 2016.

The general pattern in the movement in the national NSA construction unemployment rate from January to February is an increase. Starting in 2000, when the BLS data for this series begins, through 2016, the February rate has risen 11 times, fallen five times and been unchanged once. Contrary to the normal pattern due to the unusually mild weather in much of the nation in February, this year there was a 0.6 percent rate drop in the NSA rate from January.


View states ranked by their construction unemployment rate, their year-over-year improvement in construction unemployment, their monthly improvement in construction unemployment, a regional breakdown of states' construction unemployment rates and their February unemployment rates for all industries.

The Top Five States

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

1. Utah
2. Colorado
3. Hawaii and Idaho (tie)
5. Nebraska

Three states—Colorado, Hawaii and Utah—were also among the top five in January.

Utah, with a 5.3 percent estimated NSA construction unemployment rate, had the lowest rate among the states, up from fourth lowest rate in January based on revised data (previously reported as second lowest rate along with Virginia) and was one of 36 states whose rate decreased from January, along with the national rate. This was also the state’s lowest February rate since 2007 (2.5 percent).

Colorado, with a 5.8 percent construction unemployment rate, had the second lowest rate in February, up from tied with Texas for fifth lowest rate in January based on revised data (previously reported as sixth lowest rate). It was tied with 2007 for the state’s third lowest estimated February rate, behind 5.5 percent in 2006 and 5.4 percent in 2016.

Hawaii and Idaho, both with a 5.9 percent rate, had the third lowest rate in February. Hawaii dropped from lowest rate in January while Idaho improved from 13th lowest in January. For Idaho, it was the state’s second lowest estimated February rate after last year’s 5.6 percent since the beginning of the estimates in 2000. Note that Hawaii’s “construction” unemployment rate is actually a rate for construction, mining and logging combined.

Nebraska, with a 6 percent rate, had the fourth lowest rate in February. It was tied for the state’s lowest February rate with 2015 since the 4.1 percent rate in 2008. Nebraska jumped from tied for 20th lowest rate with Delaware.

Among states that were in the top five in January but fell out of the top five in February:
  • Virginia, which was tied with South Carolina for second lowest in January, fell to seventh lowest with a 6.6 percent rate, tied with Georgia. It was the state’s second lowest estimated February rate after last February’s 5.8 percent rate since the 4.5 percent rate in February 2006.
  • South Carolina, with a 7 percent rate, fell to 10th lowest in February. Nonetheless, that was the state’s second lowest February rate after last year’s 6.8 percent since the beginning of the estimates in 2000.
  • Texas, which tied with Colorado for fifth lowest in January, slipped to ninth lowest with a 6.9 percent rate. The 1.6 percent year-over-year increase in its rate was the second largest in the nation after New Mexico’s 2.6 percent jump.
The Bottom Five States
The states with the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest rates were:

46. Pennsylvania
47. West Virginia
48. New Mexico
49. Rhode Island
50. Alaska

Three of these states—Alaska, Rhode Island and West Virginia—were also among the five states with the highest construction unemployment rates in January.

As in the previous five months, Alaska had the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate in February, 16.6 percent. It is normal for Alaska to have among the highest rates in the nation around this time of year since these are NSA construction unemployment rates. Note that the 5.8 percent plunge in Alaska’s rate from January was the largest decline in the country, and its 2.1 percent year-over-year drop in its rate was the fourth largest decrease among the states. The state’s 16.6 percent rate, which matched the February rates in 2002 and 2015, was its lowest February rate since the 16.5 percent rate in 2001.

Rhode Island had the second highest construction unemployment rate in February, 16.4 percent. The state also had the second highest rate in January based on revised data (previously reported as third highest rate). Nevertheless, this was the state’s lowest February rate since 2007 (14.2 percent).

New Mexico had the third highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate in February, 15 percent. In January, the state had the sixth highest rate. It also had the largest year-over-year rate increase, up 2.6 percent, and the largest monthly increase, up 1.2 percent.

West Virginia had the fourth highest rate in February, 13.6 percent. In January, the state had the third highest rate based on revised data (previously reported as second highest rate). The state had the largest year-over-year decrease in its rate, down 2.6 percent, and the sixth largest decrease from January, down 2.6 percent. It was also the state’s lowest February rate since the beginning of estimated construction unemployment rates in 2000.

Pennsylvania had the fifth highest construction unemployment rate in February, 13.1 percent. In January, the state had the 10th highest rate, along with Iowa and Ohio. February’s rate matches the rates in 2008 and 2016 and is the state’s lowest February rate since 9.7 percent in 2006.

Illinois, which had the fourth highest construction unemployment rate in January, had the eighth highest rate in February, 12.3 percent. The state had the sixth largest year-over-year decrease in its rate, down 1.8 percent, and the third largest decrease from the previous month, along with Montana, down 3.8 percent. It was also the state’s lowest February rate since 2006 (11.7 percent).

Montana, which had the fifth highest construction unemployment rate in January, had the ninth highest rate in February, 11.7 percent. The state had the third largest decrease along with Illinois from January, down 3.8 percent. It was the state’s lowest February rate since 2007 (5.9 percent) and matched 2008 and 2016.

To better understand the basis for calculating unemployment rates and what they measure, see the article Background on State Construction Unemployment Rates.