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By Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D.

September proved to be a good month for construction unemployment rates. The not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rates for the country and 48 states were down in September on a year-over-year basis. For the first three quarters of the year, construction added 121,000 seasonally adjusted (SA) jobs. At the same time, NSA jobs increased by 199,000 from September 2014 to September 2015.

When looking at the monthly movements, it must be remembered that these are NSA unemployment rates. Hence they tend to have a seasonal pattern. This is the reason that year-over-year comparisons of the NSA rates are preferred. Thus, when drawing conclusions from monthly rate movements some care should be taken.

Over the last 15 years, roughly half the time the national NSA construction unemployment rate has decreased in September from the previous month. This September, the rate fell 0.6 percent—offsetting its August rise of the same amount. The estimated NSA construction unemployment rate fell for 34 states from August. The NSA construction unemployment rate for three states—Colorado, Vermont, and Wyoming—was unchanged from the previous month. September also marks the fourth month in a row that all state construction unemployment rates were under 10 percent.

At the state level, the improvement in the September construction unemployment rate from August appears to be a combination of expanding construction activity and general improvement in particular state economies. The former has resulted in some construction workers who lost their jobs in August finding new construction jobs by September. The latter has resulted in others landing jobs outside of construction. As always, the movement of job seekers between states can affect state unemployment rates.

View states ranked by their construction unemployment rate.

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

View each states' unemployment rate for all industries.

The Top Five States
The five states with the lowest construction unemployment rates were:

1.    North Dakota
2.    South Dakota*
3.    Wyoming
4.    Utah
5.    Maryland*

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

The top three states—North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming—were also among the top five in August. The top four states are in the same geographic area, although in two separate census regions (Mountain and West North Central). These states all benefit from agriculture, energy and mineral extraction, and tourism. Also, some of those who lost their jobs in construction may have left the area in search of work.

North Dakota held on to its number-one position from August. North Dakota’s estimated construction unemployment rate was unchanged on a year-over-year basis, one of only two states that did not have a year-over-year reduction in its unemployment rate (West Virginia was the other state).

South Dakota retained its second place position from August based on revised data (it was previously reported tied in fourth place with Nebraska in August)  when it was tied with Hawaii and Wyoming. Wyoming slipped to third place in September from tied for second place in August. Hawaii, which was tied for second place in August based on revised data (previously reported in third place), fell out of the top five to sixth lowest construction unemployment rate.

Utah moved into fourth place from tied for sixth place with Iowa in August. Iowa’s estimated construction unemployment rate was ninth lowest in September.

Maryland had the fifth lowest rate in September after posting the ninth lowest rate in August. Nebraska, which was in fifth place in August (previously reported as tied for fourth place with South Dakota), dropped to seventh lowest rate in September.

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

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

46.    Mississippi
47.    West Virginia
48.    Connecticut and Georgia (tie)
50.    Rhode Island

Three of the five states with the highest estimated construction unemployment rates in September—Mississippi, Rhode Island and West Virginia—were among the five highest in August. Rhode Island had the highest construction unemployment rate for the second month in a row based on revised August data (previously reported as second highest, tied with West Virginia). This was despite the state having a significant year-over-year drop in its construction unemployment rate (down 2.3 percent, the fourth largest decline along with Maryland, Mississippi and New Jersey) and an almost as notable monthly decline (down 1.2 percent, sixth largest decline along with California, Mississippi and Missouri).

Connecticut and Georgia, which were tied for the eighth highest construction unemployment rate in August, tied for the second highest rate in September. Both had solid year-over-year decreases in their rates (down 1.8 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively) and moderate monthly declines (both down 0.3 percent).

West Virginia improved to fourth highest construction unemployment rate from tied for second highest rate in August. However, West Virginia was the only state with an increase in its rate from a year ago (up 1.4 percent). This also marks the seventh consecutive month that the state’s year-over-year unemployment rate increased. On the positive side, there was a significant drop in its rate from August (down 1.4 percent), the fifth largest drop among the states. It was also the lowest estimated construction unemployment rate for the state since October 2014.

Mississippi moved from fourth highest rate (tied with Arizona) in August to fifth highest in September. The state had the fourth largest reduction in its year-over-year rate (down 2.3 percent), along with Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island. It also experienced the sixth largest monthly decrease (down 1.2 percent), along with California, Missouri and Rhode Island.

Arizona, which tied with Mississippi for the fourth highest rate in August based on revised data (previously reported as fifth highest), improved to seventh highest in September. Arizona had the fourth largest monthly decrease in its rate—down 1.5 percent from August.

New Mexico improved its ranking from tied with West Virginia for second highest rate in August based on revised data (previously reported as highest) to 12th highest. It also had the largest monthly decrease in its construction unemployment rate (down 2.3 percent).

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.

ABC construction economic releases are published according to this schedule in 2023

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