Elevated Number of Construction Job Openings for April

The number of open, unfilled construction sector positions has been elevated during 2015, with one measure of job openings for the industry reaching cycle highs.

According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and NAHB analysis, the number of open construction sector jobs (on a seasonally adjusted basis) declined from 168,000 to 153,000 from March to April. However, the 168,000 estimate for March was upwardly revised from a preliminary reading of 147,000.

After the revision, the March estimate of open construction jobs was the highest since July 2007. The April reading was the third highest monthly tally since the recession.

On a three-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector rose to 2.5% in April. The open rate has been trending upward since 2012, and the April three-moving average reading is the highest since a data series high in 2007.


The April construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a three-month moving average basis, declined to 5%. The April number of job quits held declined to 105,000, the lowest level since the start of the year.

Monthly employment data for May 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 2.453 million, broken down as 696,000 builders and 1.757 million residential specialty trade contractors.

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In May, home builders and remodelers added a somewhat reduced number of new jobs (8,500) on a seasonally adjusted basis after a strong April (18,100). Over the last 12 months, the industry has added 149,000 jobs on a net basis.

Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, the residential construction industry has gained 467,000 positions, although employment remains 997,000 lower than the peak level seen in early 2006. The industry has been adding on average just under 12,000 jobs per month over the last six months.

In May, the unemployment rate for construction workers fell to 7% on a seasonally adjusted basis. The unemployment rate for the construction occupation has been on a general decline since reaching a peak rate of 22% in February 2010.

Many builders continue to cite access to labor as a top business challenge as the market recovers (see this Builder/Metrostudy labor market analysis for recent industry survey data as discussed by Toby Morrison, as well as this recent NAHB survey of builder challenges and a video on future demand for the construction trades.)

For the economy as a whole, the April JOLTS data indicate that the hiring rate fell to 3.5% of total employment. The overall job openings rate increased noticeably in April to 3.7%. Rising job openings for the overall economy are affecting many business sectors as the unemployment rate falls.

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