Construction unemployment rates improve in 45 states from a year ago

By Riley SimpsonJuly 28, 2021

Construction unemployment rates have improved in 45 states when compared to a year ago (Photo courtesty of Reuters)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the not-seasonally adjusted national construction unemployment rate was down 2.6% in June from a year ago – and 45 states had lower unemployment rates over the same 12 months.

National NSA construction employment was up 233,000 from June 2020, but the seasonally adjusted construction employment remained 3.1% below the peak of February 2020, and the national NSA construction unemployment rate was recorded at 7.5% in June 2021, which is worse than February 2020’s number of 5.5%.

Although the numbers aren’t back to pre-Covid-19-pandemic levels, both the overall employment and specific construction employment figures have significantly improved over the past year, ABC said in a release.

“The widespread availability of Covid-19 vaccines and the economy’s bounce back are boosting the construction industry,” said Dr. Bernard M. Markstein, president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis of the BLS data for ABC.

ABC said that because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, national and state unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis; however, due to the changing impact from the Covid-19 pandemic and related shifts in public policy, month-to-month comparisons are useful.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the year-over-year changes in state construction unemployment rates

For example, June 2021’s national NSA construction unemployment rate is up 0.8% from May 2021, only the third time the June rate has exceeded the May rate since 2000. Only eight states improved construction unemployment rates in June – the 42 others had higher rates.

The top five states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in June 2021 are:

  • Nebraska, 1.4%
  • Idaho, 1.8%
  • Utah, 2%
  • Georgia, 2.7%
  • South Dakota, 2.9%

Nebraska, Idaho and Utah were in the top five the previous month, as well, and Nebraska’s 1.4% unemployment rate is the state’s lowest June rate on record – and the fourth month in a row that Nebraska has set an all-time low for the month. Georgia’s 2.7% mark is its lowest June rate on record of all time.

Conversely, the bottom five states with the highest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in June 2021 are:

  • California and West Virginia (tie), 11.3%
  • New York, 12.3%
  • New Mexico, 13.5%
  • New Jersey, 13.6%

According to ABC, all of these states were in the bottom five in May.

“The strength of the economic recovery will be tested in coming months by the delta variant and as the outflow of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act starts to dry up,” Markstein said.

Markstein said that while Congress is working to address the nation’s long-standing need to repair and upgrade its infrastructure, a qualified workforce will be necessary to complete those projects.

However, because the skilled worker shortage persists.

“If a commonsense, bipartisan infrastructure bill is enacted into law, the economy, the construction industry and the construction workforce will benefit,” Markstein said.

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