A Growing Number of Job Openings in Construction

Labor market data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (JOLTS data) indicate that number of job openings in the construction sector grew during the month of April. Using seasonally-adjusted data, open positions in April totaled 96,000, up from 68,000 in March and the highest level of openings since March 2010. The March 2010 total of 100,000 open positions was in fact a one-time spike associated with stimulus projects, and was the highest level reported for construction since late 2008.

Consistent with last month’s JOLTS reporting, the U.S. labor market continues to show limited signs of improvement, with hiring and job opening rates proceeding along an upward trend line after the dramatic declines in 2008. A stimulus-fueled uptick (along with hiring for the 2010 decennial census) can be seen in the data in early 2010, followed by an increase in the layoffs rate.

For the construction market, an increase in the rate of job openings (the red line in the graph below) has continued in 2011. For April, the number of job openings in the construction sector reached 1.7% of total positions, the highest rate since 2008, albeit equaling certain months associated with the end of phases of the homebuyer tax credit program.

The 2011 year is still looking to be the first year since the onset of the Great Recession when total construction sector hires will exceed sector separations (quits, layoffs and other departures). However, as of April, the JOLTS 2011 year-to-date totals indicate total hires just barely exceed total separations.

Nonetheless, total employment in the residential construction sector (builders and trades contractors for single-family, multifamily, land development and remodeling) is still off more than 1.4 million from the peak employment level of 3.45 million for April of 2006.



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