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 percent to 5 percent over the same period, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released by Associated Builders and Contractors.
In 24 states, estimated construction unemployment rates fell nationally when compared to the previous year. Meantime, unemployment rates rose in 25 states and were unchanged in one state (New York) on a year-over-year basis.
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,” says 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 percent 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 include:
- Florida, 2.4 percent
- South Carolina, 2.6 percent
- Colorado, 2.7 percent
- Utah, 2.7 percent
- Maryland, 2.8 percent
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).
The Bottom Five States
The states with the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest include:
- Iowa, 9.8 percent
- Montana, 9.9 percent
- Alaska, 10.3 percent
- Wyoming, 10.8 percent
- West Virginia, 11.7 percent
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 percent and 4.6 percent, 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 percent, and the third largest monthly increase, up 2.3 percent, 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 percent.
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 percent, since the 8 percent 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 percent.