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State Construction Unemployment Rates January Data Update

By Bernard M. Markstein

CORRECTION (April 1): The previous version posted March 30 contained wrong employment numbers for Maryland, which incorrectly listed the state as being in the top five for construction employment. This article and associated charts have been updated to reflect the change and all now correctly list the top five states for construction employment (in order of lowest unemployment to highest) as: Hawaii, Utah, Texas, Nebraska, North Dakota. The correction in the Maryland employment numbers also affected the December rankings, pushing Maryland down from number one to number 20 and pushing states ranked 2 through 20 up one slot in the December rankings. This is reflected in the updated text.


The construction industry has shown evidence of recovery and appears to be on a mild upward trajectory despite occasional backsliding. In 2014, construction spending for all the major areas rose faster than the rise in construction costs. Last year also marked the fourth year in a row that construction employment grew and the largest annual advance in construction employment since 2005.

This rebound in construction employment has been reflected in the construction unemployment rate. For the United States, that rate—which is reported on a not seasonally adjusted (NSA) basis—has been falling on a year-over-year basis for almost four and a half years. Much of that early decline was due to the exit of workers from the industry as they accepted work in other industries, sought training in a new field, or left the workforce. More recently, the decline in the construction unemployment rate has reflected rising employment in the industry.

The return of construction has been fairly widespread across the nation. On a year-over-year basis, the estimate of the January construction unemployment rate was down in 46 of the 50 states.

As would be expected, the January NSA construction unemployment rate for each state increased from December for all states. Only 11 of the 50 states had a rate below 10% in January, down from 21 states in December.

The one big surprise on a year-over-year basis was Louisiana where the rate jumped from 7.6% in January 2014 to 10.8% in January 2015. Note that even with this dramatic surge in the construction unemployment rate, Louisiana had the 16th lowest rate among the states. That is still quite a comedown from having the second lowest rate in the nation in January 2014. The jump in the rate may reflect the effects of lower oil prices on construction-related activity in the energy sector. There has also been a slowdown in the overall Louisiana economy as evidenced by a rise in Louisiana’s general unemployment rate.   

To view a states ranked by their construction unemployment rate click here.

To view states overall unemployment rates click here.

The Top Five States

Four of the top five states based on lowest January construction unemployment rates (or in the case of two of the five top states—Nebraska and Hawaii—the construction and mining unemployment rate) remained the same as in December, though the order was somewhat different. Hawaii, a state where construction and mining employment are reported together and less affected by winter weather, jumped to number one from number four in December.

Utah, which was number one based on revised employment data in December (it was originally reported as number two in December), fell to number two. Despite the drop in oil prices, Texas moved up from sixth in December to third in the January rankings. That pushed Nebraska, again with a construction and mining unemployment rate, down from number three in December to number four.

Apparently due to the drop in oil prices and the resulting slowdown in the oil fields, North Dakota fell from second (down from the originally reported first due to revised data) based on December unemployment rates to fifth. South Dakota, ranked number five in December, dropped out of the top five and down to number nine in January.

To view the top five and bottom five states ranked by construction unemployment rate click here.

The Bottom Five States

Four of the five states with the highest construction unemployment rates for January remained the same as in December, although not in the same order. Rhode Island had the highest rate in both January and December (revised up from the earlier estimate).

Illinois had the second highest rate in January, up from the third highest rate in December. Connecticut also moved up one slot in this less-than-desirable list, from fourth highest to third highest. Indiana, which ranked at the 41st lowest rate in December, fell to 47th in January, which is the fourth highest rate.

Michigan had the fifth highest rate in January after suffering from the second highest construction unemployment rate in December. Michigan’s December construction unemployment rate was originally reported as the highest in the country; however, revised data moved the rate down from 15% to 14.5%.

Finally, Georgia’s construction unemployment rate for December was revised down from 14% to 13.4%, dropping it from fifth highest to seventh highest for that month. For January, Georgia recorded a rate of 14.8%, ranking it 38th lowest or 13th highest.

To view the top five and bottom five states ranked by construction unemployment rate click here.

To view regional breakdowns of the construction unemployment rates of each state click here

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