By Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D.

Unusually mild weather in much of the country coupled with general improvement in the nation’s economy benefited construction and consequently construction unemployment rates in November. Not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rates for the country and 37 states were lower than in November 2014. As of November, year-to-date seasonally adjusted (SA) employment in construction increased by 215,000 in the U.S. Meanwhile, NSA construction jobs nationally increased by 267,000 from November 2014 to November 2015.

Note that NSA unemployment rates tend to have a seasonal pattern. The November national NSA construction unemployment rate typically increases from October. From 2000 to 2014, the November national NSA construction unemployment rate rose from October every year except for two years—2011 and 2013. This year, the November rate was unchanged from October.

One indication that the construction industry has been, and continues to be, on the mend is that the year-over-year change in the national NSA construction unemployment rate has fallen every month for over five years—starting in October 2010.

Note: Since the estimates for October 2015 state construction unemployment rates were made, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data for 2014 that significantly affects some of the previous estimates of the state estimated rates, including estimates for 2015 monthly rates, along with the normal revisions for data in previous months. Among the states that had large changes in their October 2015 estimated construction unemployment rates were Alaska (revised from 10.1 percent to 15.7 percent), Wyoming (from 3 percent to 6.6 percent), North Dakota (from 1.8 percent to 4.5 percent), and Georgia (from 8.6 percent to 4.3 percent).

As a result, in some cases, the changes significantly affected their previous ranking among state construction unemployment rates for October. Thus, for example, Virginia went from ranked tied with Indiana for 22nd lowest rate to 11th lowest rate. Indiana moved up to tied for 16th lowest rate. Wyoming went from ranked sixth lowest to tied for 32nd lowest. Louisiana went from 20th lowest to seventh highest. But most dramatically, Georgia went from second highest rate to seventh lowest rate.

View states ranked by their construction unemployment rate.

View states ranked by their year-over-year improvement in construction employment.

View each states' revised and original October 2015 construction unemployment rates

View each states' unemployment rate for all industries.

The Top Six States
The six states with the lowest construction unemployment rates in November in order were:

1.    New Hampshire
2.    Colorado
3.    Georgia and Virginia (tie)
5.    Idaho and Maryland* (tie)

* Unemployment rate is for construction, mining, and logging combined

Three states—Colorado, Idaho, and New Hampshire—were among the top five in October. The unseasonably warm weather in the East helped New Hampshire rise to the top of the list with a 3.7 percent rate from fourth lowest in October based on revised data.

Number two Colorado, with a 3.9 percent unemployment rate, was down from the number one slot in October based on revised data (previously reported with the fifth lowest rate).

Georgia and Virginia tied for third lowest construction unemployment rate, both with an estimated 4 percent rate. Georgia had the seventh lowest rate in October based on revised data. Virginia improved from eleventh lowest in October.

Idaho and Maryland tied for fifth lowest with a 4.1 percent construction unemployment rate. Idaho was down from third lowest in October based on revised data (previously reported with the eighth lowest rate). However, Maryland improved from twelfth lowest rate in October, tied with Massachusetts and Texas, based on revised data.

Nebraska and Utah were in the top five in October—second and fifth lowest, respectively—based on revised data (previously reported as tied for third lowest rate). Utah’s 4.8 percent November construction unemployment rate tied for tenth lowest with Texas. Nebraska was right behind those two states with the twelfth lowest rate at 4.9 percent.

View the top five and bottom five states ranked by construction unemployment rate.

View states ranked by their monthly improvement in construction employment.

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

46.    Illinois
47.    North Dakota and West Virginia (tie)
49.    New Mexico
50.    Alaska

Three of the five states with the highest estimated construction unemployment rates in November—Alaska, New Mexico, and West Virginia—were among the five highest in October. Not surprisingly for this time of year given that these are NSA rates, Alaska had the highest rate for the second month in a row. On the positive side, its rate was lower than in October, down 0.9 percent. Also, Alaska’s 14.8 percent rate was the lowest November rate since 2002 and was 2.4 percent lower than in November 2014.

New Mexico had the second highest rate for the second month in a row with a 10.8 percent construction unemployment rate. That is a slight improvement over August and September when it had the highest rate. However, it had the second largest November year-over-year increase in its rate. Also, New Mexico has had the highest total unemployment rate among the states for three months in a row.

North Dakota and West Virginia tied for the third highest construction unemployment rate in November with a 10.4 percent rate. West Virginia tied for the fourth highest rate in October with Nevada. Nevada improved to twelfth highest in November with an 8.2 percent rate, the same rate as Arkansas.

North Dakota, on the other hand, had among the lowest construction unemployment rates among the states for many months. In October, it had the ninth lowest rate, tied with Iowa, based on revised data (previously reported with the lowest rate). Now it appears that the lower energy price birds have finally come home to roost. Beyond being tied for the third highest rate, the state had both the largest monthly and year-over-year increases in its November construction unemployment rate.

Illinois had the fifth highest estimated construction unemployment rate with a 9.9 percent rate. In October, the state had the eighth highest rate. Nonetheless, the state’s rate was down 0.4 percent from November 2014.

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

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