WASHINGTON, DC — In December 2019, estimated not seasonally adjusted construction unemployment rates fell nationally and in 24 states, rose in 25 states and were unchanged in one state (New York) 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.
As of December 2019, the construction industry employed 143,000 more workers nationally compared to December 2018, while the national NSA construction unemployment rate decreased from 5.1% to 5% over the same period, according to BLS numbers. This continues the trend of declining year-over-year growth in construction employment, though it was down only slightly from November’s increase. Still, December’s rise in year-over-year employment is the smallest increase since the January 2013 increase of 116,000.
“In December, most of the country experienced above-average temperatures, and the Southeast, from Texas through Florida, experienced significantly warmer than normal weather. That aided construction activity and employment,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Although the shortage of skilled construction workers appears to have eased somewhat, builders continue to indicate that the shortage is slowing their ability to complete existing projects and limiting their willingness to bid on new projects.”
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 rates still provides some information, although extra care must be used when drawing conclusions from these variations.
The national NSA construction unemployment rate increased 0.6% from November to December. Over the 19-year period since the data series began in 2000, the historical pattern always has been an increase in rates from November. Among the states, 42 had higher estimated construction unemployment rates than in November, while seven were lower and one was unchanged (Arizona). At the same time, the nation and 19 states posted their lowest December construction unemployment rate on record.
The top five states
The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:
1. Florida, 2.4%
2. South Carolina, 2.6%
3. Colorado and Utah (tie), 2.7%
5. Maryland, 2.8%
Three of these states—Florida, South Carolina and Utah—were in the top five in November. Florida had the lowest construction unemployment rate among the states, which was also the state’s lowest December rate on record. This was up from tied with South Carolina and South Dakota for the third lowest rate in November based on revised data (originally reported as tied with Colorado and South Dakota for the fourth lowest rate).
South Carolina had the second lowest rate in December, up from third lowest in November (tied with Florida and South Dakota). This was the state’s lowest December rate on record. The state had the third largest year-over-year decline, down 1.5%, behind Maine and North Dakota.
Colorado and Utah tied for the third lowest rate in December. For Colorado, that was up from the sixth lowest rate in November based on revised data (originally reported as tied with Florida and South Dakota for fourth lowest). This was Colorado’s lowest December rate on record. For Utah, this was down from the lowest rate in November and the state’s lowest December rate since 2015, when it was 1.7%.
Maryland had the fifth lowest rate in December, up from seventh lowest in November. This was the state’s lowest December rate on record.
Oregon, which had the second lowest rate in November, fell to sixth lowest in December with a rate of 2.9%, tied with Alabama. For both states, it was their lowest December rate on record.
South Dakota, which was tied with Florida and South Carolina for the third lowest rate in November based on revised data (originally reported as tied with Colorado and Florida for the fourth lowest rate) fell to 10th lowest in December with a 3.7% rate. Nevertheless, this was the state’s second lowest December rate on record, behind last year’s rate of 3%.