The count of unfilled jobs in the overall construction sector declined, but remained elevated, in May after setting a post-Great Recession high in March. Simultaneously, the rate of jobs being added to the residential construction sector has slowed noticeably over the last three 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 to 188,000 in May, after a cycle high of 215,000 in March. The March estimate represents the highest monthly count of open, unfilled jobs since May 2007.
The open position rate (job openings as a percent of total employment) for May was 2.7%, near the cycle high. On a smoothed twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector held steady at 2.3%.
The overall trend for open construction jobs has been increasing since the end of the Great Recession. This is consistent with survey data indicating that access to labor remains a top business challenge for builders.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis eased to 5% in May.
Monthly employment data for June 2016 (the employment count data from the BLS establishment survey are published one month ahead of the JOLTS data) indicate that home builder and remodeler net hiring continued to be weak, as sector employment increased by only 2,300, after posting declines of 5,200 for May and 4,500 for April. This recent period of hiring weakness reduced the 6-month moving average of jobs gains for residential construction to just under 6,000 per month.
Residential construction employment now stands at 2.586 million, broken down as 719,000 builders and 1.87 million residential specialty trade contractors.
Over the last 12 months home builders and remodelers have, nonetheless, added 134,000 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 599,700 positions.
In June, the unemployment rate for construction workers declined significantly to just 5.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis. The unemployment rate for the construction occupation had been on a general decline since reaching a peak rate of 22% in February 2010.
Similar to the trend for construction, for the overall economy the job openings rate eased off a cycle high of 3.9% in April, falling to 3.7%. Nonetheless, increasing numbers of sectors are reported access to labor challenges as the overall unemployment rate remains low and the labor force participation rate declines.