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Construction Unemployment Rates Improve in 25 States

Contact: Jeff Leieritz (202) 905-2104             
[email protected]
                                                                For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 5Construction unemployment rates were down in 25 states and unchanged in four in February on a year-over-year basis, according to analysis released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The national not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rate of 8.8 percent was up 0.1 percent from February 2016, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Since these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, the best approach is to evaluate the national and state-level unemployment rates on a year-over-year basis.

“Despite the slight downturn in the year-over-year NSA national construction unemployment rate, half the states had a reduction in their rates from a year ago,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Overall, the construction sector remains healthy even as employers struggle against the headwind of mounting shortages of skilled construction workers.”

In spite of the year-over-year rise, this was the second lowest national February NSA construction unemployment rate since February 2006 when the rate was 8.6 percent. Meanwhile, BLS data showed that the industry employed 219,000 more workers than in February 2016.

The general pattern in the movement in the national NSA construction unemployment rate from January to February is an increase. Starting in 2000, when the BLS data for this series begins, through 2016, the February rate has risen 11 times, fallen five times and been unchanged once. Contrary to the normal pattern due to the unusually mild weather in much of the nation in February, this year there was a 0.6 percent rate drop in the NSA rate from January.

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

The Top Five States

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

1. Utah
2. Colorado
3. Hawaii and Idaho (tie)
5. Nebraska

Three states—Colorado, Hawaii and Utah—were also among the top five in January. Utah had the lowest NSA construction unemployment rate (5.3 percent), an improvement from the fourth lowest rate in January, and was one of 36 states whose rate decreased from January, along with the national rate. Colorado had the second lowest industry rate in February and its 5.8 percent tied with 2007 for the state’s third lowest estimated February rate, behind 5.5 percent in 2006 and 5.4 percent in 2016.

Hawaii and Idaho, both with a 5.9 percent rate, had the third lowest rate in February. Hawaii dropped from lowest rate in January, despite its industry unemployment rate, which also includes mining and logging, dropping from 6 percent in January. For Idaho, it was the state’s second lowest estimated February rate since the beginning of the estimates in 2000, second only to last year’s 5.6 percent.

Nebraska jumped from the 20th lowest rate in January to the fourth lowest in February with a 6 percent construction unemployment rate.

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

46. Pennsylvania
47. West Virginia
48. New Mexico
49. Rhode Island
50. Alaska

Three of these states—Alaska, Rhode Island and West Virginia—were also among the five states with the highest construction unemployment rates in January.

As in the previous five months, Alaska had the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate in February, 16.6 percent. It is normal for Alaska to have among the highest rates in the nation around this time of year since these are NSA construction unemployment rates. The state did see the biggest improvement from January (5.8 percent improvement) and fourth best year-over-year improvement (2.1 percent).

Rhode Island posted its lowest February construction unemployment rate since 2007, but still had the second highest construction unemployment rate in February (16.4 percent). New Mexico had the third highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate in February (15 percent) and the largest year-over-year and monthly increases, up 2.6 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

West Virginia had the fourth highest rate in February (13.6 percent), but also posted the largest year-over-year decrease in its rate and the sixth largest decrease from January (both down 2.6 percent). It was also the state’s lowest February rate since the beginning of estimated construction unemployment rates in 2000.

Pennsylvania had the fifth highest construction unemployment rate in February (13.1 percent), but matched 2008 and 2016 for its lowest February rate since 2006 (9.7 percent).

Illinois, which had the fourth highest construction unemployment rate in January, had the eighth highest rate in February, 12.3 percent. The state had the sixth largest year-over-year decrease in its rate, down 1.8 percent, and the third largest decrease from the previous month, along with Montana, down 3.8 percent.

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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