Wisconsin experiencing lowest construction unemployment on record


WASHINGTON — Wisconsin's not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rate was the lowest on record for the state in November, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The Wisconsin rate of 5.7 percent outperformed the previous record of 6.2 percent in November 2000 and was down 1.1 percent from November 2016. 

“Wisconsin experienced impressive improvements in construction industry unemployment in 2017," said John Mielke, president of ABC Wisconsin Chapter. "Wisconsin contractors appear to have work continuing through the winter months, so it would not be surprising to see this trend continue, especially once the Foxconn construction gets in full swing,” Mielke added.

The national construction unemployment rate (NSA) was 5 percent in November, down 0.7 percent from a year ago and also showed the lowest November rate on record, according to ABC.  Construction unemployment rates were down in 36 states on a year-over-year basis, unchanged in 13 and up in one state (Missouri).  The construction industry employed 191,000 more workers than in November 2016. 

“Construction employment continues to show strength throughout much of the country, reflecting a healthy construction industry,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “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.”

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 monthly movements.

From the beginning of the data series in 2000 through 2016, the monthly movement in the national NSA construction unemployment rate from October to November has increased 13 times, decreased twice and remained unchanged twice. The most recent rate went up 0.5 percent from October. Among the states, 38 had increases, nine had decreases and three were unchanged (Massachusetts, New York and Utah).

The Top Five States

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

1. Hawaii, 2.5 percent
2. Idaho and Utah (tie), 2.9 percent
4. Massachusetts, 3.1 percent
5. Colorado, 3.2 percent

The Bottom Five States

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

46. Connecticut, 7.7 percent
47. Illinois, 8 percent
48. New Mexico, 8.1 percent
49. Montana, 10.3 percent
50. Alaska, 16.3 percent

To better understand the basis for calculating unemployment rates and what they measure, see the article Background on State Construction Unemployment Rates in the State-by-State Construction Economics section at abc.org/economics.