The number of open, unfilled construction sector positions decreased slightly in January. Overall, the construction labor market was characterized by higher rates of turnover at the start of the year, with strengthening hiring and increased levels of separations.
According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and NAHB analysis, the number of open construction sector jobs for January (on a seasonally adjusted basis) fell from 140,000 (revised) in December to 120,000.
On a three-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector declined slightly to 2.03% in January. Over the last year, the open construction jobs rate has typically been higher than the rates that were experienced during the 2001-2003 period prior to the building boom.
The sector hiring rate, as measured on a three-month moving average basis, increased in January to 6%, showing strength after the weakness exhibited at the start of 2014.
The January number of job quits in construction fell to 135,000, off a high level (albeit downwardly revised to 144,000) for December. These levels remain high compared to the 100,000 monthly average for the first half of 2014. The large number of quits, along with growth in hiring, may reflect some churn among workers and employers in the sector.
Monthly employment data for February 2015 (the employment count data from the BLS establishment survey are published one month ahead of the JOLTS data) indicate that total employment in home building/remodeling stands at 2.436 million, broken down as 688,000 builders and 1.748 million residential specialty trade contractors.
In February, home builders and remodelers added 16,700 jobs to the residential construction sector on a seasonally adjusted basis. Over the last 12 months, the industry has created 168,000 jobs.
Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, the residential construction industry has gained 449,700 positions, although employment remains 1.014 million lower than the peak level seen in early 2006. Employment growth for the sector has been strengthening recently, adding on average just a little more than 15,000 jobs per month over the last six months.
In February, the unemployment rate for construction workers increased somewhat to 8.5%. The unemployment rate for the construction occupation has been on a general decline since reaching a peak rate of 22% in February 2010.
For the economy as a whole, the January JOLTS data indicate that the hiring rate dropped to 3.5% of total employment. The hiring rate had been in the 3.1% to 3.5% range since January 2011 but rose above 3.5% for the first time in September as job creation accelerated at the end of 2014. The rate stayed above 3.5% through December. The overall job openings rate held steady at an elevated rate of 3.4% in January.
These labor market indicators signal good news ahead for job creation and housing demand.