Construction Job Openings Remain High as Hiring Slows

The count of construction job openings fell somewhat in June, albeit from an upwardly revised estimate for the month of May. Post-revision, the May count of unfilled construction positions was second only to the month of March. The number of unfilled jobs in construction remains high, even as hiring slowed for the residential construction sector in recent months.

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) fell from 163,000 (revised up from 149,000) in May to 143,000 in June. In the current business cycle, only the March count of unfilled construction jobs (168,000) exceeds the May estimate .

On a three-month moving average basis, the open position rate (jobs openings as a percent of total employment) for the construction sector declined slightly to 2.3% in June. The open rate has been trending upward since 2012, with the current three-month moving average near the cycle high set during the prior three months (2.4%).

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The June construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a three-month moving average basis, ticked up to 5.2% after a period of declines that began in March. The quits rate for construction declined slightly to 1.7% in June.

Monthly employment data for July 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 2.45 million, broken down as 695,000 builders and 1.756 million residential specialty trade contractors.

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In July, the number of jobs in home building and remodeling (seasonally adjusted) reversed the decline reported in June, rising by 8,200. The industry pace of hiring has slowed in recent months, with the average monthly employment gain standing at just under 6,500 over the last six months. However, this recent trend may be a consequence of the 20,800 employment gain reported for February, the largest single monthly employment increase for the residential construction sector since the end of the recession.

Over the last 12 months the industry has added 119,000 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 464,100 positions.

In June, the unemployment rate for construction workers declined to 6.5% 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 (for example, see this NAHB survey on the issue, focusing on builder and subcontractor workers).

For the economy as a whole, the June JOLTS data indicate that the hiring rate increased to 3.7% of total employment. The overall job openings rate held steady at an elevated 3.6% rate. Rising job openings for the overall economy are affecting many business sectors as the unemployment rate falls.



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