The March 2018 not seasonally adjusted (NSA) national construction unemployment rate was down 1 percent from March 2017, and estimated construction unemployment rates also fell in 37 states on a year-over-year basis, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The national unemployment rate was 7.4 percent, the lowest national March rate on record.
At the same time, the construction industry employed 246,000 more workers than in March 2017.
“Demand for construction workers in March continued to be strong despite the usual wild spring weather in parts of the country,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Healthy demand for construction workers is most noticeable in the demand for skilled construction workers. However, recent building materials price increases, particularly for steel and aluminum, present the greatest threat to continued strong growth of construction activity and employment.”
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 March 2017, the national NSA construction unemployment rate from February to March has decreased 15 times, increased twice (2008 and 2012) and been unchanged once (2016). The rate for March 2018 adds another reading to the decrease side, down 0.4 percent from February. Among the states, 36 were down, 13 were up and one (Maryland) was unchanged from February.
The Top Five States
The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
- Colorado and Iowa (tie), 4.1 percent
- Nebraska, 4.3 percent
- Virginia, 4.4 percent
- Idaho, 4.6 percent
Three of these top states were in the top five in February: Idaho, Colorado and Virginia.
Colorado and Iowa tied for the lowest rate in March. Colorado was up from the third lowest rate in February based on revised data (previously reported as the second lowest rate). It was the state’s second lowest March rate after last year’s 4 percent rate since March 2001 (3.6 percent). Iowa jumped from tied with Michigan for the 27th lowest rate in February. It was the state’s second lowest March rate on record behind the 4 percent rate in March 2000. Iowa also had the largest monthly decline in the nation from February, down 4.4 percent.
Nebraska had the third lowest March construction unemployment rate, up from 10th lowest rate in February.
Virginia posted the fourth lowest rate in March for the second month in a row. It was Virginia’s lowest estimated March rate since its 3.9 percent rate in March 2006.
Idaho had the fifth lowest March rate, down from lowest rate in February. Nonetheless, it was the state’s second lowest estimated March rate on record behind its 4 percent rate in March of last year.
Louisiana, which had the second lowest rate in February based on revised data (previously reported as fifth lowest rate), dropped to 18th lowest in March, 6.7 percent. The state had the largest monthly increase from February, up 2.4 percent. This likely was due to an influx of construction workers from other states seeking employment and previously discouraged unemployed construction workers reentering the job market. However, this was still Louisiana’s second lowest estimated March rate on record behind its 3.9 percent rate in March 2006.
Hawaii, which had the fifth lowest rate in February based on revised data (previously reported as the third lowest rate), fell to 15th lowest in March with a 6.5 percent rate. The state had the second largest monthly increase from February, up 1.4 percent.
The Bottom Five States
The states with the highest NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
- New Mexico, 11.1 percent
- Montana, 11.8 percent
- West Virginia, 11.9 percent
- Rhode Island, 14.1 percent
- Alaska, 22.2 percent
Four of these states—Alaska, Montana, Rhode Island and West Virginia—were also among the bottom five states in February.
For the ninth month in a row, Alaska had the highest rate in the nation. Given that these estimates are not seasonally adjusted, a high construction unemployment rate for the state often occurs at this time of year. Nevertheless, Alaska posted the second largest monthly decline in the country, down 3.7 percent.
Rhode Island had the second highest rate in March, the same as in February. Along with Wyoming, the state posted the third largest monthly decrease in the country, down 3.2 percent. It was the Ocean State’s lowest March rate since the 12 percent rate in March 2007.
West Virginia had the third highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rate in March compared to fourth highest in February.
Montana had the fourth highest construction unemployment rate in March, compared to third highest in February. The state had the second highest year-over-year increase in its rate, up 1.1 percent, behind Arkansas’ 2.1 percent increase.
New Mexico had the fifth highest rate in March compared to the eighth highest rate in February. This was the state’s lowest March rate since its 10.6 percent rate in March 2014. The state also had the fourth largest year-over-year drop in its rate, down 2.7 percent.
Pennsylvania, which had the fifth highest rate in February, had the 10th highest rate in March with a 9.8 percent construction unemployment rate. This was Pennsylvania’s lowest March rate since the 8.6 percent rate in March 2006. The state also had the third largest year-over-year decline in the country, down 2.8 percent, and the fifth largest monthly decline, down 3 percent.
To better understand the basis for calculating unemployment rates and what they measure, see the article Background on State Construction Unemployment Rates.