The count of construction job openings declined in September as hiring in the home building sector remained slow. The average monthly employment gain for builders and remodelers has been approximately 4,700 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) dipped to 122,000 in September from 136,000 in 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% for September. The overall trend for construction open jobs has been increasing, although the current open rate is down from the cycle high last reached in May (2.4%).
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a three-month moving average basis, fell to 4.9% in September, continuing a slowdown that began at the start of the year. The quits rate for construction increased to 2% in September.
Monthly employment data for October 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 2.468 million, broken down as 698,000 builders and 1.77 million residential specialty trade contractors.
In October, the number of jobs in home building and remodeling (seasonally adjusted) increased by 6,000. The pace of hiring for the industry has slowed over 2015, with the average monthly employment gain standing at just 4,700 over the last six months.
Over the last 12 months home builders and remodelers have added 99,000 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 482,100 positions.
In October, the unemployment rate for construction workers increased to 7.2% 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 September JOLTS data indicate that current trends for construction are also at play for other sectors of the economy. The hiring rate fell to 3.5% of total employment. The overall job openings rate increased to 3.7%, near the 3.8% cycle high set during July.
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.