The not seasonally adjusted national construction unemployment rate plunged 4.6% in December 2021 from a year ago, down from 9.6% to 5%, while all 50 states had lower unemployment rates over the same period, according to a state-by-state analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released by Associated Builders and Contractors. This substantial improvement occurred even as the omicron COVID-19 variant was sweeping the nation.

While not fully recovered to its pre-pandemic level, national NSA construction employment was 163,000 higher than in December 2020. Seasonally adjusted construction employment was only 96,000, or 1.3%, below its February 2020 peak, before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect the employment numbers. This beat national seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment, which, though improving, was still 2.2% below its February 2020 peak as of December 2021. 

The national NSA construction unemployment rate of 5% was unchanged in December 2021 from its December 2019 reading. Over that same period, 34 states had lower construction unemployment rates, and 16 states had higher rates.

“The construction industry is making impressive progress despite continuing supply chain issues, which include extended delivery times and shortages of some building materials and appliances,” said Bernard M. Markstein, president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Employers are also coping with difficulties finding skilled workers. The normal winter slowdown in construction activity is, at least temporarily, relieving some of the stress from these challenges.”

Recent Month-to-Month Fluctuations

National and state unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted. However, due to the changing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related shifts in public policy, month-to-month comparisons offer a better understanding of the pandemic’s effect on construction employment in a rapidly changing economic environment.

Since the data series began in 2000, national NSA construction unemployment rates have always increased from November to December. December 2021 was no exception, with a 0.3% rise in the rate. Eleven states had lower estimated construction unemployment rates than in November, 33 states had higher rates and six had the same rate.

The Top Five States

The five states with the lowest December 2021 estimated NSA construction unemployment rates were:

  1. 1. Nebraska, 1.3%
  2. 2. Indiana and Utah (tie), 1.5%
  3. 4. Georgia, 1.6%
  4. 5. Oklahoma, 2%

All five states had their lowest December estimated NSA construction unemployment rate on record.

The Bottom Five States

The states with the highest December 2021 estimated NSA construction unemployment rates were:

  1. New Jersey, 8.3%
  2. Michigan, 8.6%
  3. North Dakota, 9%
  4. New York, 9.5%
  5. Alaska, 10%

Alaska posted its lowest December estimated NSA construction unemployment rate on record.

Click here to view graphs of overall unemployment rates and construction unemployment rates showing the impact of the pandemic, including a graphing tool that creates a chart for multiple states.

To better understand the basis for calculating unemployment rates and what they measure, check out the Background on State Construction Unemployment Rates.

About Associated Builders and Contractors

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 69 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work.