Wisconsin’s March construction unemployment higher than same time last year

WASHINGTON, Apr. 28, 2021 — Wisconsin’s estimated not seasonally adjusted (NSA) construction unemployment rate in March was 9.2%, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), which is down 2.9% from February but up 1.3% from March 2020.  This compares with the overall Wisconsin unemployment rate of 4.8% in the same month.

Wisconsin’s non seasonally-adjusted construction unemployment rate is 28th among the states. The national rate is 8.6%.  On a year-over-year basis, the not seasonally adjusted construction unemployment rates rose nationally and in 33 states, fell in 15 states and were unchanged in two states, Oklahoma and Washington. Over the past several years, Wisconsin was trending much lower than the national rate, but has been trending higher than the national rate over the past several months. By comparison, Illinois is at 8.3%, Iowa is at 5.8%, Minnesota is at 9.9% and Michigan is at 11.0%.

Unemployment rate chart

National NSA construction employment was down 80,000 from March 2020. Seasonally adjusted construction employment remains 182,000, or 2.4%, below its February 2020 peak, before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began to influence employment numbers. This compares favorably to national SA nonfarm payroll employment, which was 5.5% below its February 2020 peak.

The national NSA construction unemployment rate went from 5.5% in February 2020 to 8.6% in March 2021, up 3.1%. Over that same period, 12 states had lower estimated NSA construction unemployment rates, 37 had higher rates and one (Utah) remained unchanged.

Overall, there is belief that things continue to improve.

“The combination of better weather and vaccine availability is already improving the health of both the economy and the construction industry,” said Bernard M. Markstein, Ph.D., president and chief economist of Markstein Advisors, who conducted the analysis for ABC. “Federal spending from the roughly $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act is providing short-term support to the economy, helping to maintain an upward trajectory. Longer term, there remains a need for repairs and upgrades to the nation’s aging infrastructure. If Democrats and Republicans in Congress can come to agreement on a plan that will benefit both the nation’s long-term economic growth prospects and the construction industry, that would further improve the employment outlook.”

Because these industry-specific rates are not seasonally adjusted, national and state-level unemployment rates are best evaluated on a year-over-year basis. However, due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, month-to-month comparisons are useful.

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