- Construction unemployment rates rose from a relatively low December rate of 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent in January
- On a year-over-year basis, January national NSA employment in construction increased by 257,000
- Three states—Colorado, Georgia, and Virginia—were among the top five in December
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Unusually mild weather in much of the country continued into the first part of January but ended for the East near the end of the month with the brutal storm dubbed “Snowzilla.” The storm did not hit until after the reference week used for surveying employment and unemployment. This undoubtedly helped to temper the normal rise in the not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rates for the nation, which rose from a relatively low December rate of 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent in January. This is the lowest January national construction unemployment rate going back to the beginning of the series in January 2000.
As a result of the relatively good weather and continued improvement in the economy and the construction industry, NSA construction unemployment rates for the country and 43 states were lower than in January 2015. The construction unemployment rates for Idaho was unchanged from a year ago, leaving only six states (Alaska, Kansas, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) with higher year-over-year unemployment rates.
On a year-over-year basis, January national NSA employment in construction increased by 257,000. Further, the national NSA construction unemployment rate has been down on a year-over-year basis each month for over five years running. The U.S. rate was 1.3 percent lower in January 2016 from a year ago.
Note that the NSA unemployment rates have a seasonal pattern with the national NSA construction unemployment rate increasing from December to January.
The Top Five States
The top five states with the lowest construction unemployment rates in January in order from lowest rate to highest rate were:
5. South Carolina
Three states—Colorado, Georgia, and Virginia—were among the top five in December. Texas would have been the fourth repeat state, but data revisions lowered Hawaii’s rate (which is for construction, mining and logging combined), pushing Texas out of fifth place into sixth place in December. Hawaii had the tenth highest rate in January (7 percent) along with Arizona.
Except for Colorado, these are southern states that tend to have better weather in January than many other states in the country. Also, these are states generally performing well economically.
Georgia, with a 4.6 percent estimated construction unemployment rate, had the lowest rate for the second month in a row. Its December ranking is based on revised data.
Texas jumped to second lowest from sixth lowest in December based on revised data with a 5.4 percent construction unemployment rate. Although construction in Houston languishes due to low energy prices, Dallas, which is less dependent on the energy industry, is experiencing a construction boom.
Colorado slipped from the second lowest construction unemployment rate in December based on revised data to third lowest in January with an estimated 5.7 percent rate.
Virginia declined to fourth lowest with a 6 percent rate from third lowest rate in December. New Hampshire, which had tied with Virginia for third place based on revised data dropped to seventh lowest rate in January with a 6.5 percent construction unemployment rate.
South Carolina’s construction unemployment rate held steady from December at 6.2 percent. This was enough to catapult the state from 14th lowest rate in December to fifth lowest rate in January.
The Bottom Five States
The five states with the highest construction unemployment rates (from lowest to highest) were:
46. Illinois and Rhode Island (tie)
48. North Dakota
49. West Virginia
Only two of the five states with the highest estimated construction unemployment rates in January—Alaska and North Dakota—were among the five highest in December.
Given the time of year and that these are NSA rates, it should come as no surprise that Alaska with a 19.2 percent rate had the highest rate for the fifth month in a row. Alaska’s January rate was below the state’s January average rate of 22.6 percent from 2001 through 2015. Still, this January’s rate was 1.9 percent higher than last year’s 17.3 percent rate. That was the highest year-over-year increase among the states. However, the 2015 rate is the lowest estimated January rate for Alaska since 2001 (as far back as the January estimates go).
West Virginia had the second highest rate with a 16 percent construction unemployment rate. In December, West Virginia had the seventh highest rate. The state had the fourth largest December year-over-year increase in its rate (1 percent) and the largest monthly increase (5.2 percent).
North Dakota posted the third highest construction unemployment rate with a 15.8 percent rate in January. That was a slight improvement from the second highest rate in December based on revised data (previously reported as the third highest rate). The state also had the second highest year-over-year increase (1.7 percent).
Illinois and Rhode Island tied for the fourth highest rate in January with a 14.6 percent construction unemployment rate. Illinois had the sixth highest rate in December based on revised data. Rhode Island had the ninth highest rate in December. However, the state’s 3.9 percent rate drop from January 2015 was the biggest year-over-year decline among the states even as it had the second largest monthly increase (up 4.3 percent).