Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data for August from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that the national economy, while sluggish, continues to trend better with respect to job openings.
In particular, the job openings rate average for the middle of 2011 (2.4%) is the highest since the middle of 2008. However, the hiring rate, at 3.1%, has hovered at this range since May 2010, which indicates a business sector with open positions but not yet able to increase employment. This is worth watching at it may point to a mismatch between employees in demand and skills of available workers. It could also indicate yet another problem with a weak housing market in that workers are unable to move where jobs are in supply.
For the construction sector, open positions increased to 92,000 (on a non-seasonally adjusted basis), which is well off the June and July totals of open positions in the sector of 68,000 and 75,000 respectively. Given ongoing weakness in housing starts, these new open positions are mostly in non-residential construction.
We are still projecting that 2011 will be the first year since 2006 in which total hires for the construction sector outnumber total separations. Thus far for the year, however, total hires only outnumber total separations by 4,000 positions, a number we expect to grow as multifamily construction rebounds.