The count of unfilled jobs in the overall construction sector declined recently, as residential construction employment accelerated in 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) came in at 148,000 in December. The cycle high was 225,000 set in July.
The open position rate (job openings as a percent of total employment) for December was 2.2%. On a smoothed twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector held steady at 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. However, a recent increase in hiring has reduced the current level of unfilled jobs in the sector. In fact, the hiring rate in December jumped to 5.8%, the fastest pace since the start of 2015.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis, increased to 5% in December. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs was steady (2.7%), remaining in a range set last Fall. Quits fell to 1.8% in December.
Monthly employment data for January 2017 (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 continued to grow at a fast pace, increasing by 20,300. The January gains continue the improvement in place since November that followed a period of hiring weakness early in 2016. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction has now increased to a more robust gain of 17,000 a month.
Residential construction employment now stands at 2.683 million, broken down as 762,000 builders and 1.921 million residential specialty trade contractors.
Over the last 12 months home builders and remodelers have added 128,000 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 701,000 positions.
In January, the unemployment rate for construction workers stood at 7.3% 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.