The March 2018 not seasonally adjusted (NSA) national construction unemployment rate was down 1 percent from March 2017, and estimated construction unemployment rates also fell in 37 states on a year-over-year basis, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The national unemployment rate was 7.4 percent, the lowest national March rate on record.

At the same time, the construction industry employed 246,000 more workers than in March 2017.

“Demand for construction workers in March continued to be strong despite the usual wild spring weather in parts of the country,” said Bernard Markstein, president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Healthy demand for construction workers is most noticeable in the demand for skilled construction workers. However, recent building materials price increases, particularly for steel and aluminum, present the greatest threat to continued strong growth of construction activity and employment.”

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 the rates still provides some information, although extra care must be used in drawing conclusions from these variations.

From the beginning of the data series in January 2000 through March 2017, the national NSA construction unemployment rate from February to March has decreased 15 times, increased twice (2008 and 2012) and been unchanged once (2016). The rate for March 2018 adds another reading to the decrease side, down 0.4 percent from February. Among the states, 36 were down, 13 were up and one (Maryland) was unchanged from February.

The Top Five States

The states with the lowest estimated NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:

  1. Colorado and Iowa (tie), 4.1 percent
  2. Nebraska, 4.3 percent
  3. Virginia, 4.4 percent
  4. Idaho, 4.6 percent

Three of these top states were in the top five in February: Idaho, Colorado and Virginia.

The Bottom Five States

The states with the highest NSA construction unemployment rates in order from lowest to highest were:

  1. New Mexico, 11.1 percent
  2. Montana, 11.8 percent
  3. West Virginia, 11.9 percent
  4. Rhode Island, 14.1 percent
  5. Alaska, 22.2 percent

Four of these states—Alaska, Montana, Rhode Island and West Virginia—were also among the bottom five states in February.

For the ninth month in a row, Alaska had the highest rate in the nation. Given that these estimates are not seasonally adjusted, a high construction unemployment rate for the state often occurs at this time of year. Nevertheless, Alaska posted the second largest monthly decline in the country, down 3.7 percent.