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Construction Employment Rates Up

Published Thursday Aug 2, 2018

Construction Employment Rates Up

Estimated June construction unemployment rates fell in 15 states on a year-over-year basis, rose in 33 states and were unchanged in two states (Arizona and New Hampshire), according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released July 31 by Associated Builders and Contractors.

The June 2018 not seasonally adjusted (NSA) national construction unemployment rate increased 0.2 percent to 4.7 percent from June 2017. At the same time, the construction industry employed 282,000 more workers nationally than in June 2017.

“Paradoxically, the rise in the June construction unemployment rate nationally and in many states both on a year-over-year basis and from May is a good sign,” says Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “The rise in the construction unemployment rate was a result of discouraged workers reentering the labor market in search of employment due to excellent prospects for obtaining a job in construction with good pay. The number of reentrants was greater than the market could absorb in a short period even as demand for construction workers remains strong, sending the unemployment rate higher.”

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 June 2017, the national NSA construction unemployment rate from May to June has declined every year but one (June 2010), when it was unchanged. The rate for June 2018 was the first on record to increase from May, up 0.3 percent. Among the estimated state construction unemployment rates, 15 were down, 33 were up and two, Arizona and Indiana, were unchanged from May.

This rise in the various state construction unemployment rates occurred even as private NSA construction employment rose in 47 states from May. In two states, Alabama and South Carolina, construction employment fell, while in Hawaii, which only reports mining and construction employment combined, it was unchanged.

Nationally, NSA private construction employment increased 13,000 from May while the number of unemployed construction job seekers rose by 51,000, resulting in an increase in the June national construction unemployment rate. This can only be due to previously discouraged construction workers reentering the job market in search of work. This appears to have occurred throughout the country, among the vast majority of states, not concentrated in just a few states.

The Top Five States

The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:

  • Idaho, 1.7 percent
  • Iowa and Minnesota (tie), 1.9 percent
  • South Dakota and Wyoming (tie), 2 percent

Maine, which had the fifth lowest rate in May based on revised data, dropped to 24th lowest with a 4.4 percent construction unemployment rate in June. It also had the second largest monthly increase in its rate among the states, up 2.8 percent. Vermont, which had the third lowest rate in May based on revised data, tied with Utah for the sixth lowest rate in June with a 2.2 percent rate.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members (

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