WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan 31.—December not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rates were down in 26 states and the nation on a year-over-year basis, according to analysis released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The rates for two states, Iowa and Wisconsin, were unchanged from December 2015. The national NSA construction unemployment rate of 7.4 percent was down 0.1 percent from a year ago, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The national NSA construction unemployment rate has fallen from the previous year’s reading every month since October 2010. Since these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, it is most accurate to evaluate the national and state-level unemployment rates on a year-over-year basis.
“The ongoing year-over-year decline in the national unemployment rate is an indication of the health of the construction job market and its recovery from the deep recession it experienced,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “However, the growing shortage of skilled construction workers is hindering the ability of the sector to grow with more than 80 percent of Associated Builders and Contractors members reporting a shortage of appropriately skilled labor.”
This was the lowest national December NSA construction unemployment rate since December 2006 when the rate was 6.9 percent. Meanwhile, BLS data showed that the industry employed 97,000 more people than in December 2015.

The usual pattern for the change from November to December is an increase in the national NSA construction unemployment rate. Starting in 2000, when the BLS data for this series begins, the December rate has risen every year. This year’s 1.7 percent rate increase was no exception.

Only two states—Arizona and Hawaii—posted a decline in their estimated NSA construction unemployment rates from November.

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

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

1.    Massachusetts
2.    Colorado
3.    Hawaii
4.    New Hampshire
5.    Virginia

Three states—Colorado, Massachusetts and New Hampshire—were also among the top five in November.

Massachusetts, with a 3.5 percent estimated NSA construction unemployment rate, had the lowest rate among the states for the second month in a row. Its 2.5 percent year-over-year drop was the second largest decline, behind Nevada, among the states. It was also the state’s lowest December rate on record going back to 2000 when the estimates begin.

Colorado, with a 3.8 percent construction unemployment rate, moved up to the second lowest rate in December from tied for third lowest rate with New Hampshire in November based on revised data (previously reported as fourth lowest rate). It was the state’s lowest estimated December rate since the 3.4 percent rate in December 2000. Also, the 0.4 percent rise from November was the third lowest change among the states.

Hawaii, with a 4 percent rate, jumped from the 14th lowest rate in November to third lowest rate in December. It also was one of only two states, along with Arizona, with a monthly decline (down 0.7 percent) among the states. This was the state’s lowest December rate since 2006’s 2.3 percent rate.

New Hampshire slid from tied for the third lowest NSA estimated construction unemployment rate in November to fourth lowest in December with a 4.7 percent rate. Despite the normal seasonal rise in its rate, this was the state’s lowest December rate on record going back to 2000 when the estimates begin. The state also had the sixth largest year-over-year drop in its rate, 1.5 percent.

Virginia had the fifth lowest rate in December, with a 5.1 percent rate, improved from tied for 10th lowest in November with Georgia and Texas.

Utah, which had the second lowest rate in November, was tied with Vermont for the sixth lowest rate in December with a 5.2 percent rate. Iowa, which had the fifth lowest rate in November, fell back towards the middle of the pack in December, tied with New Jersey for the 20th lowest rate with an estimated unemployment rate of 6.9 percent. However, that tied with December 2015 for the state’s lowest December since 2000 when the estimates begin.

The Bottom Five States
The states with the highest NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest rates were:

47.    Alabama and New Mexico
48.    Montana
49.    Illinois and North Dakota
50.    Alaska

Four of these states—Alaska, Alabama, Illinois and New Mexico—were also among the five states with the highest construction unemployment rates in November.

As in the previous three months, Alaska had the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate in December (16.8 percent). This is no surprise since these are NSA construction unemployment rates. As a result, it is the usual course of events for Alaska to be among the highest rates in the nation around this time of year. However, the state saw a 2.4 percent year-over-year increase in its construction industry unemployment rate, the second largest rise among the states after North Dakota.

Illinois and North Dakota had the second highest construction unemployment rate in December—12.8 percent. For Illinois that was the same as in November, tied with Alabama and New Mexico, based on revised data (previously reported as fourth highest rate).

North Dakota underwent a dramatic change in ranking from November when it had the 16th lowest rate along with several other states (Kansas, Michigan, Nevada and Oregon). North Dakota had both the biggest year-over-year and monthly jump in its December rate, up 4 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.

Montana had the fourth highest rate in December, 11.6 percent. In November, Montana had the 11th highest rate along with Connecticut and Wisconsin. The state’s increase of 5 percent from November’s rate was the second largest rise in the country.

Alabama and New Mexico had the fifth highest construction unemployment rate in December, 11.1 percent. Both states, along with Illinois, had the second highest rate in November based on revised data (previously reported as third highest for Alabama and second highest for New Mexico). Alabama, along with South Dakota, had the third largest year-over-year increase in its rate, up 1.3 percent.

Pennsylvania, which had the fifth highest construction unemployment rate in November, had the seventh highest rate, along with West Virginia, in December—10.5 percent.

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