Residential Construction Employment Solid in December

The count of unfilled jobs in the overall construction sector remained elevated in November, as residential construction employment continues to grow.

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) came in at 184,000 in November. The cycle high was 225,000 set in July.

The open position rate (job openings as a percent of total employment) for November was 2.7%. On a smoothed twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector increased to 2.8%, setting a cycle high and exceeding the peak twelve-month moving average rate established prior to the recession.

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, remained steady at 4.9% in November. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs was also steady (2.6%), remaining in a range set last Fall. Quits rose to 2.4% in November, consistent with a tight labor market.

Monthly employment data for December 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 employment expanded, increasing by 9,800. The December gains continue the improvement in the Fall after a period of hiring weakness early in 2016. The 6-month moving average of jobs gains for residential construction has now increased to a healthier 11,450 per month.

Residential construction employment now stands at 2.653 million, broken down as 739,000 builders and 1.915 million residential specialty trade contractors.

Over the last 12 months home builders and remodelers have added 103,000 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 667,000 positions.

In December, the unemployment rate for construction workers stood at 6.8% 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, although it has leveled off in the 6% to 7% range since the middle of 2016.



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