Washington, Feb. 5—In December 2019, estimated not seasonally adjusted construction unemployment rates fell nationally and in 24 states, rose in 25 states and were unchanged in one state (New York) 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.
As of December 2019, the construction industry employed 143,000 more workers nationally compared to December 2018, while the national NSA construction unemployment rate decreased from 5.1% to 5% over the same period, according to BLS numbers. This continues the trend of declining year-over-year growth in construction employment, though it was down only slightly from November’s increase. Still, December’s rise in year-over-year employment is the smallest increase since the January 2013 increase of 116,000.
“In December, most of the country experienced above-average temperatures, and the Southeast, from Texas through Florida, experienced significantly warmer than normal weather. That aided construction activity and employment,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Although the shortage of skilled construction workers appears to have eased somewhat, builders continue to indicate that the shortage is slowing their ability to complete existing projects and limiting their willingness to bid on new projects.”
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 increased 0.6% from November to December. Over the 19-year period since the data series began in 2000, the historical pattern always has been an increase in rates from November. Among the states, 42 had higher estimated construction unemployment rates than in November, while seven were lower and one was unchanged (Arizona). At the same time, the nation and 19 states posted their lowest December construction unemployment rate on record.
The Top Five States
The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
1. Florida, 2.4%
2. South Carolina, 2.6%
3. Colorado and Utah (tie), 2.7%
5. Maryland, 2.8%
Three of these states—Florida, South Carolina and Utah—were in the top five in November. Florida had the lowest construction unemployment rate among the states, which was also the state’s lowest December rate on record. This was up from tied with South Carolina and South Dakota for the third lowest rate in November based on revised data (originally reported as tied with Colorado and South Dakota for the fourth lowest rate).
South Carolina had the second lowest rate in December, up from third lowest in November (tied with Florida and South Dakota). This was the state’s lowest December rate on record. The state had the third largest year-over-year decline, down 1.5%, behind Maine and North Dakota.
Colorado and Utah tied for the third lowest rate in December. For Colorado, that was up from the sixth lowest rate in November based on revised data (originally reported as tied with Florida and South Dakota for fourth lowest). This was Colorado’s lowest December rate on record. For Utah, this was down from the lowest rate in November and the state’s lowest December rate since 2015, when it was 1.7%.
Maryland had the fifth lowest rate in December, up from seventh lowest in November. This was the state’s lowest December rate on record.
Oregon, which had the second lowest rate in November, fell to sixth lowest in December with a rate of 2.9%, tied with Alabama. For both states, it was their lowest December rate on record.
South Dakota, which was tied with Florida and South Carolina for the third lowest rate in November based on revised data (originally reported as tied with Colorado and Florida for the fourth lowest rate) fell to 10th lowest in December with a 3.7% rate. Nevertheless, this was the state’s second lowest December rate on record, behind last year’s rate of 3%.
The Bottom Five States
The states with the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
46. Iowa, 9.8%
47. Montana, 9.9%
48. Alaska, 10.3%
49. Wyoming, 10.8%
50. West Virginia, 11.7%
Three of these states—Alaska, Montana and Wyoming—were also in the bottom five in November. West Virginia had the highest estimated construction unemployment rate in December, compared to 10th highest in November. Further, West Virginia had the largest year-over-year and monthly increase among the states, up 4.1% and 4.6%, respectively.
Wyoming had the second highest rate in December compared to third highest in November based on revised data (originally reported as tied with Mississippi for second highest rate). The state had the second largest year-over-year increase in its rate, up 2.9%, and the third largest monthly increase, up 2.3%, behind West Virginia and Iowa.
Alaska had the third highest rate in December compared to the highest in November. This was the state’s lowest December rate on record. Also, Alaska had the largest drop among the states in its monthly rate, down 4.2%.
Montana had the fourth highest rate in December compared to fifth highest in November based on revised data (originally reported as 10th highest). Nonetheless, this was the state’s second lowest December rate on record, behind last year’s rate of 9.7%, since the 8% rate in 2007.
Iowa had the fifth highest rate in December compared to 14th highest in November (tied with Michigan and New Mexico). The state had the second largest monthly increase behind West Virginia, which was up 3.8%.
Mississippi, which had the second highest rate in November, tied with Pennsylvania for eighth highest in December with a 9% rate. This was the state’s third highest December rate on record, behind the 8.6% in 2017 and the 7.5% in 2018.
Minnesota, which had the fourth highest rate in November, ranked sixth highest in December with a 9.5% rate.
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.