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Construction Unemployment Reaches Historic Lows

Construction unemployment rates in a vast majority of states is down and last November was the strongest on record, according to recently published statistics.

Further, many are optimistic the construction industry will continue to thrive amid improvements in the overall national economy and job market. Non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows national construction unemployment was 5% in November, down 0.7 percentage points from a year prior and the all-time low for a November, according to information from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).

Compared to November 2016, the construction industry employed 191,000 more workers. “Construction employment continues to show strength throughout much of the country, reflecting a healthy construction industry,” said Bernard M. Markstein, president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors.

“Above-average temperatures and below-normal precipitation in much of country in November likely helped overall construction activity. Continued recovery and rebuilding efforts following 2017’s hurricanes, floods and wildfires has added to demand for workers, offsetting some of the normal seasonal downturn in construction employment.” Markstein Advisors conducted the BLS analysis on behalf of the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Optimism that construction will continue to thrive is high, according to a recent survey from the Associated General Constrictors of America, which found fully three-quarters of respondents plan to hire additional workers in 2018, assuming the labor demand can be met. "Construction firms appear to be very optimistic about 2018 as they expect demand for all types of construction services to continue to expand," said AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr.

However, Sandherr noted a skilled labor shortage continues to hamstring companies looking to take on additional workers. Overall, the nationwide unemployment rate held at 4.1% for November 2016, with unemployed persons holding steady at 6.6 million, according to information from the BLS. Year-over-year, unemployment was down 0.5 percentage points with 799,000 persons qualifying as unemployed.

“Long-term” unemployed, meaning those who spent more than 27 weeks jobless, accounted for 1.6 million Americans in November, but dipped by 275,000 persons year-to-year. Long-term unemployed persons accounted for close to 24% of the unemployed population, according to information from BLS.

In construction, unemployment dropped in 36 states, remained unchanged in 13 and only rose in the singular instance of Missouri, reports the ABC. The states with the lowest construction unemployment rates are led by Hawaii with 2.5% and include Idaho, Utah, Massachusetts and Colorado.

The highest construction unemployment rate for any state is Alaska at 16.3%, with Montana, New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut right behind. Hawaii’s construction unemployment rate is lumped in with its mining and logging unemployment rate, as construction unemployment data by itself was not available, according to the release from the ABC.

“Because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, national and state-level unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis,” according to the analysis. “The monthly movement of the rates still provides some information, although extra care must be used in drawing conclusions from these monthly movements.” 

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