Residential Construction Hiring Slows

The count of construction job openings held steady in August as hiring in the home building sector continued to slow. The average monthly employment gain for builders and remodelers is just over 5,500 over the last six 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) was effectively unchanged at 138,000 for August. The cycle high of 168,000 was set during March.

On a three-month moving average basis, the open position rate (jobs openings as a percent of total employment) for the construction sector ticked down to 2.1% for August. The open rate has been trending upward since 2012, with the current three-month moving average slightly off the cycle high set during May (2.4%).


The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a three-month moving average basis, held steady at 4.9% in August, after a slowdown in hiring that took place at the start of the year. The quits rate for construction held at 1.6% in August.

Monthly employment data for September 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 2.46 million, broken down as 695,000 builders and 1.765 million residential specialty trade contractors.

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In September, the number of jobs in home building and remodeling (seasonally adjusted) increased by only 3,900. The pace of hiring for the industry has slowed over 2015, with the average monthly employment gain standing at just over 5,500 over the last six months.

Over the last 12 months home builders and remodelers have added 100,000 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 473,700 positions.

In September, the unemployment rate for construction workers fell to 6.6% on a seasonally adjusted basis, up slightly from the cycle low of 6.5% set during July. 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 August JOLTS data indicate that current trends for construction are also at play for most other sectors of the economy. The hiring rate held steady at 3.6% of total employment. The overall job openings rate fell from 3.8% to 3.6% in August. The July open rate was a series high.

Rising job openings for the overall economy are affecting many business sectors as the unemployment rate has fallen, with employers wanting new workers but holding greater numbers of unfilled positions. This could bode well for future hiring, but it might also signal that labor shortages are becoming a more general concern.

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