By Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D.

Overview

Construction employment stalled nationally on a seasonally adjusted (SA) basis in June. However, as expected, not seasonally adjusted (NSA) employment increased from May. The result was that 38 states experienced a decline in their estimated NSA construction unemployment rate.

Construction activity and employment continues to improve from a year ago. Thus, on a year-over-year basis, the NSA construction unemployment rates for the country and 45 states were down in June.

For the first half of the year, SA construction jobs rose 105,000, while the industry added 262,000 jobs from June 2014 to June 2015 on an NSA basis.

The Census Bureau reported on July 1 that total SA nominal (current) dollar construction spending increased 0.8 percent in May. Nonresidential construction spending, which struggled in 2014, has advanced for four consecutive months. Total construction spending increased for six months straight.

View states ranked by their construction unemployment
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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.    South Dakota*
2.    Nebraska*
3.    North Dakota
4.    Idaho and Montana (tie)

* Unemployment rate is for construction and mining combined

All of the top five states are in the same geographic region, although the Census Bureau places Idaho and Montana in a different census division (West North Central for Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota; Mountain for Idaho and Montana). Wyoming, which would fit in neatly with this group (part of the Mountain census division), was just out of the top five at number six (up from number eight in May).

Four of the top five states were also among the top five in May with a somewhat different order. South Dakota moved into the number one spot from being tied for second with North Dakota in May. Nebraska slipped into the second position from the first in May.

North Dakota fell to third place with the decline in its position undoubtedly largely due to the slump in oil prices and the resulting slowdown in exploration and drilling new wells. Nonetheless, both the construction unemployment rate and the overall state unemployment rate are at a low level that other states would envy.

Fourth place was a tie between Idaho and Montana. For Idaho, June’s ranking was an improvement from its number seven position in May. Montana moved up from fifth place in May based on revised data (it had previously been in fourth place). Maryland, with a construction and mining unemployment rate,  took over Montana’s fourth place in May based on revised data (originally reported as number five) but fell to tenth place in June in a tie with Utah, which also held tenth place in May.

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.    New Mexico
47.    Rhode Island
48.    Georgia and West Virginia (tie)
50.    Mississippi

Three of the states with the five highest construction unemployment rates in May were among the five highest in June: Georgia, Mississippi and Rhode Island. For the second month in a row, Mississippi had the highest rate in the nation. On the positive side, the estimated construction unemployment rate for all 50 states fell below 10 percent for the first time since October 2014.

Georgia and West Virginia were tied for second highest in June. Georgia also had the second highest rate in May based on revised data (originally reported as third highest). West Virginia moved from tied with Connecticut and Missouri for eleventh highest in May to its tie with Georgia for second highest rate in June. West Virginia was one of five states with a year-over-year increase in their estimated construction unemployment rates and one of 12 states with an increase from their May rate. Among those 12 states, West Virginia along with New Hampshire had the largest monthly increase—1.6 percent.

Rhode Island moved from fifth highest in May based on revised data (originally reported as sixth highest) to fourth highest in June. New Mexico took Rhode Island’s fifth place position in June moving down from 17th highest in May.

New Jersey and South Carolina, which tied for third highest in May based on revised data, were sixth and seventh highest, respectively, in June. Alabama and California tied with South Carolina for seventh highest in June. In May, California’s construction unemployment rate was also seventh highest, while Alabama’s rate was sixth highest based on revised data (originally reported as fifth highest).

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.