Washington, June 1—Estimated April construction unemployment rates fell in 19 states on a year-over-year basis, were unchanged in four states and rose in 27 states, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).
The April 2018 not seasonally adjusted (NSA) national construction unemployment rate rose 0.2 percent from April 2017 to 6.5 percent. At the same time, the construction industry employed 262,000 more workers nationally than in April 2017.
“Colder-than-normal temperatures in the eastern half of the country, combined with above-average precipitation in much of the eastern third of the nation, were likely factors in somewhat slower construction activity in April and a slightly elevated national construction unemployment rate compared to a year ago. Nonetheless, demand for construction workers continued to be healthy,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Employers are still reporting shortages of skilled construction workers, while building materials price increases hang like a cloud over future construction activity.”
Because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, national and state-level unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis. The monthly movement of the rates still provides some information, although extra care must be used in drawing conclusions from these variations.
From the beginning of the data series in January 2000 through April 2017, the national NSA construction unemployment rate from March to April has declined every year. The rate for April 2018 was no exception, down 0.9 percent from March. Among the estimated state construction unemployment rates, 39 were down, 10 were up, and one (Virginia) was unchanged from March.
The Top Five States
The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
1. Iowa and North Dakota (tie), 2.2 percent
2. Nebraska and Wyoming (tie), 2.7 percent
3. Idaho, 2.9 percent
Two of these top states were in the top five in March: Iowa and Nebraska.
Iowa and North Dakota tied for the lowest rate in April. Iowa also held the top rank in March. It was the state’s third lowest April rate after 1.7 percent in April 2015 and 2.1 percent in April 2000. North Dakota saw a significant improvement from having the 14th lowest rate in March. The state had the nation’s largest year-over-year rate decline, down 2.6 percent. It was also North Dakota’s lowest April rate on record since the beginning of the estimates in 2000. The sharp improvement in the state’s construction unemployment rate was no doubt partly due to the effects of higher oil prices.
Nebraska and Wyoming tied for the third lowest April construction unemployment rate. For Nebraska, this matched its March ranking. For Wyoming, it was a step up from the eighth lowest rate in March. It was Wyoming’s lowest estimated April rate on record. It was also the country’s second largest year-over-year rate reduction, down 1.7 percent.
Idaho had the fifth lowest April rate, up from sixth lowest rate in March based on revised data (previously reported as the fifth lowest rate). This was the state’s lowest April rate on record, matching last year’s 2.9 percent rate.
Colorado, which had the second lowest rate in March based on revised data (previously reported as tied with Iowa for the lowest rate), tied with Massachusetts for the 12th lowest rate in April, 4.6 percent.
Indiana, which tied with Virginia for the fourth lowest rate in March based on revised data (previously reported as the sixth lowest rate), had the 10th lowest rate in April, 4.2 percent. It was the state’s third lowest April rate after last year’s 3.4 percent rate and its 3.6 percent rate in 2000.
Virginia, which had the fourth lowest rate in March (tied with Indiana), fell to 11th lowest in April, 4.5 percent.
The Bottom Five States
The states with the highest NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
46. Oklahoma, 8.9 percent
47. Rhode Island, 9.2 percent
48. Arkansas and New Mexico (tied), 10 percent
49. Alaska, 19.3 percent
Three of these states—Alaska, New Mexico and Rhode Island—were also among the bottom five states in March.
For the 10th month in a row, Alaska had the highest rate in the nation. Given that these estimates are not seasonally adjusted, a high construction unemployment rate for the state often occurs at this time of year, though certainly not year-round. Its April rate is troubling as it is the state’s second highest April estimated rate on record, after 20.9 percent in 2011. Thus, it is not surprising that Alaska posted the nation’s largest year-over-year increase, up 2.6 percent.
Arkansas and New Mexico tied for the second highest rate in April. For Arkansas, that compared to being tied with Connecticut for the sixth highest rate in March. Along with Rhode Island, Arkansas posted the second largest year-over-year increase, up 2.2 percent. For New Mexico, its April ranking compared to having the fifth highest rate in March. Still, it was New Mexico’s lowest April rate since 2014, when it was 9.5 percent.
Rhode Island had the fourth highest construction unemployment rate in April, an improvement from the second highest in March. As noted, Rhode Island tied with Arkansas for the second largest year-over-year increase, up 2.2 percent. Nevertheless, the state tied with Minnesota for the second largest monthly drop in its rate, down 5 percent, behind Montana’s 8 percent plunge.
Oklahoma had the fifth highest rate in April compared to being tied with Ohio for the 15th highest rate in March.
West Virginia, which had the third highest estimated construction unemployment rate in March, edged up to the sixth highest rate in April, 8.7 percent.
Montana, which had the fourth highest rate in March, improved dramatically to being tied with New Hampshire for the seventh lowest rate in April, 3.6 percent. This was Montana’s lowest April rate on record.
To better understand the basis for calculating unemployment rates and what they measure, see the article Background on State Construction Unemployment Rates.
Visit ABC Construction Economics for the Construction Backlog Indicator, Construction Confidence Index and state unemployment reports, plus analysis of spending, employment, GDP and the Producer Price Index.
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at abc.org.