Washington, Oct. 30—In September, estimated not seasonally adjusted construction unemployment rates fell nationally and in 48 states and rose in two states on a year-over-year basis, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors. For the fifth consecutive month, the construction unemployment rates for all 50 states were below 10%. For the nation and 29 states, this was their lowest September construction unemployment rate on record.
The construction industry employed 155,000 more workers nationally compared to September 2018, as the September 2019 national NSA construction unemployment rate fell from 4.1% to 3.2% over the same period, according to BLS numbers. But the worrying trend of declining growth in construction employment continues. September’s increase in year-over-year employment is the smallest increase since the January 2013 increase of 116,000. Part of the slowdown in employment growth may be result of the continued shortage of skilled workers.
“In September, above-average temperatures in much of the country may have helped construction activity in some areas, but hurt it in other parts of the country,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Also, above-average precipitation in the upper Midwest and on the West Coast likely slowed construction in those regions. Higher building materials prices and the threat of additional increases due to the possible imposition of new tariffs have been and continue to be a drag on construction.”
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 rates still provides some information, although extra care must be used when drawing conclusions from these variations.
The national NSA construction unemployment rate fell 0.4% from August to September. There is no particular historical pattern to the change in the rate from August. Since the data series began in 2000, there were eight decreases, nine increases and two times the rate was unchanged. Among the states, 35 had lower estimated construction unemployment rates from August, 11 were higher and four were unchanged.
The Top Five States
The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
- Utah, 1.6%
- South Dakota, 1.7%
- Colorado, 1.8%
- Idaho, 1.9%
- Alabama and South Carolina (tie), 2%
All of these states except for Alabama and South Carolina were in the top five in August. Utah had the lowest construction unemployment rate in September. This was up from tied with Colorado for fifth lowest rate in August based on revised data (originally reported as the fourth lowest rate). It was also the state’s second lowest September rate on record behind the 1.3% in 2015 (and matching the 1.6% rate in September 2006).
South Dakota had the second lowest rate in September, the same as in August based on revised data (originally reported as lowest). It was also the state’s lowest September rate on record.
Colorado had the third lowest rate in September, up from fifth lowest rate in August (tied with Utah). This was the state’s lowest September rate on record.
Idaho had the fourth lowest rate in September, the same as in August based on revised data (originally reported as the sixth lowest rate). This was the state’s lowest September rate on record.
Alabama and South Carolina tied for the fifth lowest rate in September. For both states, this was a significant improvement from tied for 13th lowest in August. It was also the lowest September rate on record for both states. Alabama had the third largest year-over-year drop in its rate (down 2%) among the states and South Carolina had the fourth largest decrease (down 1.9%), tied with Nevada.
North Dakota, which had the lowest rate in August based on revised data (originally reported as the second lowest rate, tied with Maine), plunged to 28th lowest in September with a rate of 3.5%, tied with Massachusetts and North Carolina. It was both the largest year-over-year and monthly increase among the states, up 1.1% and 1.9%, respectively.
Maine, which had the third lowest rate in August based on revised data (originally reported as the second lowest rate, tied with North Dakota), fell to ninth lowest in September with a 2.3% rate, tied with Texas. Nonetheless, it was the Maine’s lowest September rate on record.
The Bottom Five States
The states with the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
- Connecticut and Missouri, 4.9%
- Wyoming, 5.2%
- Kentucky, 5.5%
- Mississippi, 6.5%
- Alaska, 6.7%
Three of these states—Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri—were also in the bottom five in August. Alaska had the highest estimated construction unemployment rate in September, compared to seventh highest in August (tied with Illinois) based on revised data (originally reported as the fifth highest rate). Still, it was Alaska’s second lowest September rate on record behind a rate of 6.6% in 2001. Moreover, Alaska had the second largest year-over-year drop among the states, down 2.3%, but also the second largest monthly increase, up 1.5%.
Mississippi had the second highest rate in September, up from highest rate in August.
Kentucky had the third highest rate in September, an improvement from second highest in August. This was the state’s lowest September rate since hitting 5.4% in 2015.
Wyoming had the fourth highest rate in September compared to 11th highest in August.
Connecticut and Missouri were tied with the fifth highest rate in September. For Connecticut, this compared to 12th highest in August. Nevertheless, this was the state’s lowest September rate since the 4.6% rate in 2001. Missouri, for its part, also was fifth highest in August, tied with Rhode Island, based on revised data (originally reported as seventh highest). This was the state’s lowest September rate since its 4.4% rate in 2015.
New Mexico, which had the third highest rate in August, improved to 14th highest in September with a 4% rate (tied with Minnesota). This was the state’s lowest September rate on record. Further, the state had both the nation’s largest year-over-year and monthly reduction, down 2.5% and 2%, respectively.
Pennsylvania, which had fourth highest rate in August, improved to seventh highest in September with a 4.8% construction unemployment rate. This was the state’s lowest September rate on record.
Rhode Island, which had the fifth highest rate in August (tied with Missouri) based on revised data (originally reported as sixth highest), improved to eighth highest in September with a 4.7% rate. This was the state’s lowest September 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.org/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 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 69 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.