ABC: Half of State Construction Unemployment Rates Down in December 2023 From a Year Prior

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The not seasonally adjusted national construction unemployment rate at 4.4% was unchanged in December 2023 from the previous year, according to a state-by-state analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors. The analysis also found that 25 states had lower unemployment rates over the same period, four were unchanged and 21 states were higher.

National NSA payroll construction employment was 230,000 higher than in December 2022. Starting in February 2022 through December 2023, seasonally adjusted construction employment exceeded its pre-pandemic peak of 7.6 million.

In December 2023, 31 states had lower construction unemployment rates compared to December 2019, three states’ rates (Missouri, Oklahoma and Oregon) were unchanged and 16 states had higher rates.

“Continued high interest rates have been a drag on plans for new construction,” said Bernard Markstein, president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “However, industry employment remains healthy, as builders work on their backlog of projects and employers fill some of their advertised positions. Nonresidential construction activity and employment is benefiting from federal funding and tax incentives for manufacturers, as well as funding for state and local infrastructure projects.”

Recent Month-to-Month Fluctuations

National and state unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted. However, due to the shifting effects on the economy from high interest rates, energy price fluctuations and other national and international developments, month-to-month comparisons offer insight into the variable economic environment impact from these factors on construction employment.

In December 2023, 32 states had lower estimated construction unemployment rates than in November, 17 states had higher rates and one (Maryland) had the same rate.

The Top Five States

The five states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates for December 2023 were:

  1. Maryland, 0.5%
  2. Georgia, 1.7%
  3. Utah, 1.9%
  4. Delaware and Tennessee (tie), 2.1%

Maryland and Georgia each posted their lowest December NSA estimated construction unemployment rate on record. Utah had its second lowest December rate, behind last year’s 1.8%. Delaware and Tennessee both came in with their lowest December rate on record for the second time (Delaware matching its December 2018 rate and Tennessee its 2022 rate). Note that Delaware’s unemployment rate is for construction, mining and logging.

The Bottom Five States

The five states with the highest December 2023 estimated NSA construction unemployment rates were:

  1. Vermont, 7.3%
  2. Illinois, 7.5%
  3. Alaska, 9.4%
  4. Connecticut, 10.5%
  5. Rhode Island, 11.3%

Alaska posted its lowest December NSA estimated construction unemployment rate on record and had the largest monthly decline in its rate (down 4.8%). Vermont had the third largest year-over-year drop in its unemployment rate, down 2.6%, behind South Dakota (down 3.4%) and Minnesota (down 2.8%).

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