WASHINGTON, Aug. 28—For the second time this year, estimated July construction unemployment rates fell in every state and nationally 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.

The July 2018 not seasonally adjusted national construction unemployment rate fell 1.5 percent to 3.4 percent from July 2017. At the same time, the construction industry employed 303,000 more workers nationally compared to July 2017, according to BLS statistics.

“Low July construction unemployment rates across the nation are the result of healthy construction activity, reflecting a tight construction labor market,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “A number of records were set this month. For the third time since January 2000, when the ABC state estimates begin, all 50 state construction unemployment rates fell on a year-over-year basis. The other two times were within the past eight months, in December 2017 and January 2018. Further, this is only the fourth time that the national construction NSA unemployment rate has fallen below the overall national NSA unemployment rate.”

The United States and more than half of the states (27) posted their lowest July construction unemployment rate on record. It is also the first time since August 2017 that all 50 states had a construction unemployment rate under 10 percent.

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 July 2017, the national NSA construction unemployment rate from June to July has declined 13 times, rose three times and was unchanged twice. The rate for July 2018 added to the decrease count, down 1.3 percent. Among the estimated state construction unemployment rates, 44 were down, five were up and one, Wisconsin, was unchanged from June.

Meanwhile, private NSA construction employment rose in 39 states from June. Construction unemployment was unchanged in two states—Rhode Island and Tennessee—and decreased in nine states. Nationally, NSA private construction employment increased 19,000 from June.

The Top Five States

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

  1. North Dakota and South Dakota (tie), 1.4 percent
  2. Vermont, 1.6 percent
  3.  Oregon and Utah (tie), 2 percent

 Of these states, only South Dakota was in the top five in June.

North Dakota and South Dakota tied for the lowest rate in July. For South Dakota, that was up from the fifth lowest rate in June based on revised data (previously reported as tied with Wyoming for fourth lowest). It was also the state’s second lowest July rate on record, after a rate of 1.3 percent in 2007. North Dakota improved from tied with Colorado for eighth lowest in June.

Vermont had the second lowest July construction unemployment rate, up from sixth lowest in June. It was Vermont’s lowest July estimated NSA construction unemployment rate on record.

Oregon and Utah tied for the fourth lowest construction July unemployment rate. For Oregon, that was up from tied with Wisconsin for 13th lowest in June. It was also the state’s lowest July construction unemployment rate on record. For Utah, July’s standing was up from seventh lowest in June.

Iowa and Wyoming, which had the lowest and third lowest rate in June, respectively, fell to sixth lowest in July (tied with New Hampshire) with a 2.2 percent rate. The June ranking for both is based on revised data. Iowa’s June ranking was previously reported as the second lowest rate, tied with Minnesota. Wyoming’s June ranking was previously reported as the fourth lowest rate, tied with South Dakota. Iowa’s July rate was the state’s lowest July rate on record. Wyoming’s July rate was the state’s lowest July rate since a rate of 1.7 percent in 2013.

Idaho, which had the second lowest construction unemployment rate in June based on revised data (previously reported as lowest rate), dropped to ninth lowest with a 2.3 percent rate in July. This was still the state’s second lowest July rate on record after a rate of 2.1 percent in July 2007.

Minnesota, which tied with Wyoming for the third lowest rate in June based on revised data (previously reported as tied with Iowa for the second lowest rate), dropped to 13th lowest with a 2.6 percent construction unemployment rate in July, tied with Colorado and Nevada. Nevertheless, it was the state’s lowest July rate on record.

The Bottom Five States

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

  1. Alabama, Kentucky and Rhode Island, 5.1 percent
  2. West Virginia, 5.6 percent
  3. Alaska, 5.8 percent
  4. Mississippi, 7.4 percent
All the states except Rhode Island were among the bottom five states in June.

For the second month in a row, Mississippi had the highest estimated construction unemployment rate in July. Nevertheless, this was the state’s lowest July rate (matching the 2016 rate) since the 7.2 rate in July 2001.

Alaska had the second highest rate in July compared to third highest in June. The state also had the third largest year-over-year decrease in its rate, down 2.7 percent, as well as the third largest monthly drop, down 3.1 percent. It was Alaska’s second lowest July construction unemployment rate since the 5.4 percent in 2002.

West Virginia had the third highest rate in July compared to second highest in June. The state had the largest monthly decline in its rate, down 3.4 percent. It was also the state’s lowest July rate since the 5 percent rate in July 2008.

Alabama, Kentucky and Rhode Island tied for the fourth highest rate in July. Alabama ranked fourth highest rate in June, Kentucky fifth highest, and Rhode Island 18th highest. For Alabama, it was the lowest July rate since a 3.7 percent rate in 2005. For Kentucky, it was the state’s second lowest July rate behind a 4.7 percent rate in 2000. For Rhode Island, it was also the state’s second lowest July rate after a 4.7 percent rate in 2004.





To better understand the basis for calculating unemployment rates and what they measure, see the article Background on State Construction Unemployment Rates.

Visit ABC Construction 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 (ABC) 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 70 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.