The count of unfilled jobs in the construction sector fell slightly in March, after an upward revision to the February estimate. Moreover, the rate of quits is rising as tight labor market conditions continue.
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) stood at 172,000 in March. The cycle high was 238,000, set in July of last year.
The open position rate (job openings as a percent of total employment) for March came in at 2.4%. On a smoothed twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector held steady at 2.65%, near the cycle high.
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 rates in December and January, 5.9% and 5.7% respectively, mark the strongest two months since early 2015.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis, held at 5.1% in march. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs was steady (2.7%), remaining in a range set in 2014.
Quits have been rising recently, increasing to 2.5% in March. This is the highest rate of quits for the cycle. This measure is consistent with other data illustrating a tight and competitive labor market for construction workers.
Monthly employment data for April 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 growth was flat, growing by just 900. This comes after an employment decline in March, which was the first monthly drop in 9 months. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction now stands at somewhat above 12,000 a month.
Residential construction employment is now 2.692 million, broken down as 763,000 builders and 1.929 million residential specialty trade contractors.
Over the last 12 months home builders and remodelers have added 109,000 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 709,300 positions.
In March, the unemployment rate for construction workers stood at 6.3% 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.