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Construction Unemployment Rates Improve in 27 States, ABC Says

March not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rates were down in nationally and in 27 states and unchanged in two on a year-over-year basis, according to analysis released May 2, 2017, by Associated Builders and Contractors. The national NSA construction unemployment rate of 8.4 percent was down 0.3 percent from March 2016, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Since these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, national and state-level unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis.


“This was the lowest national NSA March construction unemployment rate on record, matching the 8.4 percent rate in March 2001,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “BLS data also showed that the industry employed 184,000 more workers than in March 2016. In sum, the construction sector remains healthy even as employers cope with shortages of skilled construction workers.”


The general pattern in the movement in the national NSA construction unemployment rate from February to March is a decline. Starting in 2000, when the BLS data for this series begins, through 2016, the March rate has fallen 14 times, risen twice and been unchanged once. In keeping with the normal pattern, despite a return to “normal” weather in March after an unusually mild February in much of the country, this year there was a 0.4 percent rate drop in the NSA rate from February.


The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest rate to highest were: Colorado and Nebraska (tied for first), Utah (#3), Kansas (#4) and Iowa (#5).


Three states—Colorado, Nebraska and Utah—were also among the top five in February. Colorado and Nebraska, both with a 4.3 percent estimated NSA construction unemployment rate, had the lowest rate among the states.


For Colorado, this was a repeat in ranking from February and the state’s lowest March rate (tied with March 2007) since March 2001.


For Nebraska, this was an improvement from tying with Idaho for the third lowest rate in February and the state’s second lowest March rate (behind last year’s 4.2 percent rate) since 2008.


Utah, with a 4.4 percent construction unemployment rate, had the third lowest March rate, down from second lowest rate in February and its lowest March rate since 2007.


Kansas had the fourth lowest rate in March—much improved from the 13th lowest in February—at 5.3 percent, its lowest rate since March 2007.


Iowa’s rate increased from 4.5 percent in March 2016, but posted the fifth lowest industry rate in the country and its third lowest March rate at 5.4 percent.


The states with the highest NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest rates were Pennsylvania and Rhode Island (tied at #47), Connecticut (#48), New Mexico (#49) and Alaska (#50).


Four of these states—Alaska, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania—were also among the five states with the highest construction unemployment rates in February.


With 20.9 percent, Alaska had the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate in March. It should be no surprise that during the cold weather months, Alaska has among the highest rates in the nation since these are NSA construction unemployment rates, but the state also posted the largest year-over-year increase (up 2 percent) and the largest monthly increase (up 4.2 percent).


New Mexico had the second highest construction unemployment rate in March, 13.8 percent, compared to the third highest rate in February.


Connecticut had the third highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate in March, but its 12.3 percent rate was the state’s second March lowest rate (after 2016’s 12.2 percent) since March 2007’s 11.5 percent.


Pennsylvania and Rhode Island tied for the fourth highest rate in March, 11.9 percent. For Pennsylvania, it was the state’s lowest March rate (along with 2008 and 2016) since 2007. For Rhode Island it was the state’s lowest March rate since the 10.1 percent rate in 2004. Rhode Island also had the second largest year-over-year decrease in its rate (down 3.3 percent) behind Maine’s 3.4 percent drop and the second largest monthly decrease in its rate (down 3.2 percent) behind South Dakota’s 3.6 percent decrease.

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