February Construction Unemployment Down in 44 States Year-Over-Year

On March 24, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) launched its state-by-state economic analysis with the release of economist Bernard Markstein’s analysis of construction’s contribution to each state’s gross domestic product. Below is Markstein’s analysis of the construction job market and unemployment rate in each state. This analysis will be produced monthly in addition to ABC’s existing national economic data and analysis. Background on how the data was derived and Markstein’s methodology is also available.
Bad weather often typifies February across much of the country and this February’s weather was particularly harsh. The not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rate for the country often peaks around February and the nation appears to be on track for that pattern this year. The February construction unemployment rate for the country along with estimated rates for 34 states increased over their respective January rates.
The weather around the winter months also makes it more difficult to judge the health of the construction industry. Nonetheless, construction appears to be on an upward trajectory across much of the nation. On a year-over-year basis, February construction unemployment rates were down in 44 of the 50 states along with the U.S. rate.
The Top Five States
Four of the top five states with the lowest February construction unemployment rate (or in the case of Nebraska and Hawaii, the construction and mining unemployment rate) remained the same as in January, though the order was somewhat different. Hawaii, which ranked number one in January, fell to number four in February. North Dakota took over the top spot, moving up from number five in January.
February’s top five states ranked from lowest unemployment to highest are:
• North Dakota
• Nebraska
• Utah
• Hawaii
• Wyoming

Given the downturn in oil prices and North Dakota’s recent dependence on oil-driven economic development, it may seem somewhat surprising that the construction unemployment rate remained relatively low for that state; however, two factors are likely at work. First, most new unemployment is probably occurring in the energy sector, which does not show up in construction unemployment. Second, many of the people who are employed in the North Dakota energy economy are from other states. When they no longer have a job there, most of them return to their home state or to a state where there may be jobs for them.
Nebraska (with a combined construction and mining unemployment rate) had the second lowest unemployment rate in February, moving up from number three in January (revised from the originally reported number four position).
Utah slipped from number two in January to number three in February. Texas, which was ranked fourth in January (revised from third), fell back to seventh in the February rankings. Wyoming moved into the top five at number five from sixth in January.
The Bottom Five States
Four of the five states with the highest construction unemployment rates for February also remained the same as in January based on revised data, though the order was somewhat different. Rhode Island had the highest rate in both February and January.
February’s bottom five states ranked from highest unemployment rate to lowest are:
• Rhode Island
• Connecticut
• West Virginia
• New Jersey
• Illinois
Connecticut had the second highest unemployment rate in February, up from the third highest in January. West Virginia moved into the bottom five in February, ranking at number three compared to number six in January.
New Jersey had the fourth highest rate in February after registering the fifth highest rate in January (New Jersey originally reported the sixth highest in January, but based on revised data, moved to fifth). Michigan, which was fifth highest in January before data revisions, was seventh highest after the revisions and remained at that spot in February.
Illinois improved from the second highest rate in January to fifth highest in February. Indiana, which was fourth highest in January, moved out of the bottom five to ninth highest in February.
Read more on ABC’s website