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May Construction Unemployment Rates Improve in 46 States from 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C., June, 28—Construction unemployment rates improved in 46 states and throughout the nation in May on a year-over-year basis, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors. The May national not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rate of 5.2 percent was 1.5 percent lower than a year ago while the industry employed 213,000 more people than in May 2015.

“May is typically the month in which construction activity increases as the weather improves across the nation,” said economist Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Dating back to the beginning of the data series in January 2000, the NSA rate has improved from April to May in all but one year. This year’s decline of 0.8 percent continues that pattern and matches the monthly decrease in 2014 and 2015. Additionally, the decrease in the construction unemployment rate from May 2015 extends the string of uninterrupted monthly year-over-year rate decreases that began in October 2010.

“All of the top five states are cold weather states that benefit greatly from the normal improvement in the weather that occurs in May,” said Markstein. “With the exception of Minnesota, all of the top five states have small construction workforces. As a result, small changes in construction employment can translate into large swings in their construction unemployment rates from month to month."

Only three states—Pennsylvania, North Dakota and South Dakota—had their May estimated construction unemployment rate increase from a year ago, while Texas had no change in its rate from May 2015. The year-over-year increase for Pennsylvania and South Dakota was small, up 0.1 percent. All states had construction unemployment rates under 10 percent, an occurrence last observed in July 2015.

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

View each state's unemployment rate for all industries.

The Top Five States
The five states with the lowest construction unemployment rates in order from lowest rate to highest were:

1.    Idaho
2.    Nebraska
3.    Minnesota
4.    Wyoming
5.    Vermont

Only the top two states—Idaho and Nebraska—were also among the top five in April. Idaho, with a 1.9 percent estimated construction unemployment rate, had the lowest rate among the states in May. That was up from third lowest rate in April.

Nebraska dropped from lowest rate in April to second lowest rate in May with a 2 percent construction unemployment rate. Colorado, which had the second lowest rate in April based on revised data (previously reported as tied for third lowest rate with Idaho), fell to eighth lowest rate in May with a 3.3 percent rate, tied with South Dakota. Colorado was also one of seven states whose construction unemployment rate rose in May from April, though a modest 0.1 percent.

Minnesota had the third lowest rate in May, with a 2.1 percent construction unemployment rate. That compared to the sixth lowest rate in April, tied with South Dakota . Minnesota’s 2.5 percent year-over-year decrease, the same as Florida and West Virginia, was the third largest decrease from May 2015.

Wyoming (2.6 percent) had the fourth lowest rate in May. That was a notable improvement from 22nd lowest rate in April. Its 2.9 percent drop from April was the second largest monthly decrease. Utah, which had the fourth lowest rate in April along with Virginia based on revised data (previously reported as the sixth lowest rate along with Minnesota and South Dakota), had the 14th lowest rate in May at 3.7 percent.

Vermont (2.7 percent) had the fifth lowest rate among the states, compared to 10th lowest rate in April along with Iowa. Virginia, which tied with Utah for fourth lowest rate in April based on revised data (previously reported as the fifth lowest rate), tied with Iowa and Michigan for the 10th lowest rate in May with a 3.5 percent construction unemployment rate.

View the regional breakdown of the construction unemployment rates of each state.

The Bottom Five States

The five states with the highest construction unemployment rates (from lowest to highest) were:

46.    Illinois
47.    Pennsylvania
48.    Alabama
49.    Rhode Island
50.    New Mexico

Four of the five states (all except Alabama) with the highest estimated construction unemployment rates in May were the same as in April, although in a different order.

Despite a 1.4 percent decline in its rate from April to 8.9 percent, New Mexico had the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate among the states in May. In April, New Mexico had the third highest rate based on revised data (previously reported as second highest rate).

Since the construction unemployment rate is not seasonally adjusted, Alaska easily had the highest rate for eight months running (starting in September 2015). But in May, it had the eighth highest rate (6.9 percent) along with Arkansas and Mississippi. The state also had the largest monthly decline in its rate, down 4.5 percent from April.

Rhode Island had the second highest rate both in April and May. The April ranking is based on revised data (previously reported as fifth highest rate). May’s 8.6 construction unemployment percent rate was down 2.4 percent from April, the fourth largest monthly decline.

Alabama had the third highest construction unemployment rate (8.4 percent). The state had the seventh highest rate in April and was among the seven states with an increase in its rate from April. Along with Maryland, Alabama had the largest monthly increase, up 0.3 percent.

For the second month in a row, Pennsylvania had the fourth highest estimated construction unemployment rate (8.3 percent). Its April ranking is based on revised data (previously reported as tenth highest rate). It was also one of three states with a year-over-year increase in its rate, up a slight 0.1 percent along with South Dakota.

Also for the second month in a row, Illinois had the fifth highest construction unemployment rate, 7.7 percent. The state’s April ranking is based on revised data (previously reported as third highest). 

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

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