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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Wisconsin's estimated not seasonally adjusted construction unemployment rate in August was 3.1%, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The rate is the third lowest August on record, 17th lowest among the states, and 0.2% lower than the Wisconsin overall unemployment rate. This is the fourth consecutive month that the rate for construction was lower than the overall state unemployment rate.
The construction industry employed 177,000 more workers nationally compared to August 2018, even as the August 2019 national NSA construction unemployment rate increased from 3.4% to 3.6% over the same period, according to BLS numbers. Although the growth in employment is a positive for the industry, there has been a troubling trend of declining growth in construction employment for close to a year now. August’s increase in year-over-year employment is the smallest increase since December 2016—158,000—which was an anomaly after almost four years of robust increases in construction employment. The slowdown in employment growth may be due to a combination of the shortage of skilled workers and the recent slowdown in construction activity (as of August, year-to-date construction spending was down 2.3% from the same period last year).
“In August, significantly high temperatures in much of the West and Southwest and generally above-average temperatures in much of the East may have hindered construction activity in those areas,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Meanwhile, higher building materials prices due to tariffs and the threat of additional tariffs have added to concerns about the outlook for construction, which have led to the scaling back of some projects and even the cancelation of a few proposed projects.”
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 rates still provides some information, although extra care must be used when drawing conclusions from these variations.