July 3—In May, estimated not seasonally adjusted construction unemployment rates
fell nationally and in 46 states on a year-over-year basis, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors. Three states (Michigan, South Dakota and Vermont) had no change, while only Hawaii increased, rising from 5% in May 2018 to 5.2% in the most recent report. (Note that the unemployment rate for Hawaii is for construction, mining and logging combined.)
The construction industry employed 203,000 more workers nationally compared to May 2018, pushing the May 2019 national NSA construction unemployment rate down 1.2%, from 4.4% to 3.2%, according to BLS numbers.
“The May construction employment numbers continue to reflect the strength of the construction industry and its impact on the economy all over the country,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Reflecting this strength, unemployment rates in May were the same or lower compared to a year ago in the all states except for Hawaii. For the first time since last October, all states had a construction unemployment rate less than 10%, and for the first time in the history of the estimates, they were all under 7%.”
Because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, national and state-level unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis. The monthly movement of the rates still provides some information, although extra care must be used when drawing conclusions from these variations.
The national NSA construction unemployment rate fell 1.5% from April to May. A decrease in the monthly rate is the normal pattern, having fallen every May since the data series began in 2000, with only one exception—May 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession. Among the states, 45 posted lower estimated construction unemployment rates from March; one (Nevada) saw no change and four (Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri and Nebraska) were higher.
The Top Five States
The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
1. Vermont, 0.7%
2. South Dakota, 0.8%
3. Iowa, 0.9%
4. Montana and Wyoming (tie), 1.1%
Three of these states—Iowa, South Dakota and Vermont—were in the top five in April. Vermont had the lowest construction unemployment rate in May, an improvement from fourth lowest rate in April. This was the state’s lowest May rate on record, matching the May 2018 rate.
South Dakota had the second lowest rate in May, up from fifth lowest in April based on revised data (originally reported as tied with North Dakota for sixth lowest). This was the state’s second lowest May rate on record, matching its May rate from last year and behind the 2016 rate of 0.7%.
Iowa had the third lowest rate in May, down from tied with Idaho for second lowest rate in April. This was Iowa’s lowest May rate on record.
Montana and Wyoming tied for the fourth lowest rate in May. For Montana, this was up from seventh lowest in April based on revised data (originally reported as the lowest rate). It was also the state’s second lowest May rate on record, after a rate of 1% in May 2007. For Wyoming, it was a significant improvement—up from 24th lowest in April (tied with Arkansas), and the state’s lowest rate since it reached 0.9% in May 2014.
Nebraska, which had the lowest rate in April based on revised data (originally reported as tied with Iowa for the second lowest rate), fell to 13th lowest in May, with a 2.1% estimated construction unemployment rate. Nonetheless, it was the state’s second lowest May rate after 2008, when it stood at 1.8%.
Idaho, which had the second lowest rate in April (tied with Iowa) based on revised data (originally reported as tied with Vermont for the fourth lowest rate), fell in ranking to ninth lowest rate in May (tied with Utah), with a 1.6% rate. This was the state’s lowest May rate since a rate of 1.2% in 2007.
The Bottom Five States
The states with the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
47. New Mexico, 5.5%
48. Kentucky, 6.2%
49. Missouri, 6.3%
50. Alaska and Mississippi (tie), 6.6%
All of these states except for Missouri were also in the bottom five in April. Alaska and Mississippi had the highest estimated construction unemployment rate. For Alaska, it was the third month in a row that it had the highest rate. It was the state’s lowest May rate since the 5.2% rate in 2002. For Mississippi, this ranking compared to second highest rate in April. Nevertheless, it was Mississippi’s lowest May rate on record. Alaska had the largest drop in its rate from April among the states, down 5.3%, while Mississippi had the third largest decline, down 3.6%.
Missouri had the third highest rate in May compared to 12th highest in April.
Kentucky had the fourth highest rate in May compared to third highest in April. It was the state’s lowest May rate since 2000, when it was 5.9%.
New Mexico had the fifth highest rate in May compared to fourth highest in April based on revised data (originally reported as fifth highest). This was the state’s second lowest May estimated construction unemployment rate behind the 5% rate in 2008.
Michigan, which had the fifth highest rate in April based on revised data (originally reported as fourth highest), improved to 13th highest in May (tied with North Carolina) with a 4.1% estimated construction unemployment rate. This was the state’s lowest May rate on record, matching May rates in 2000 and 2018.
To better understand the basis for calculating unemployment rates and what they measure, see the article Background on State Construction Unemployment Rates.