The count of unfilled jobs in the construction sector declined in December. The fall in open jobs followed several months of strong of net job gains for the residential construction sector. Over the course of November and December, for example, home builders and remodelers added 32,000 jobs on a net basis.
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) declined to 158,000 in December. This total marks only a small increase relative to the December 2016 total (140,000). The open position rate (job openings as a percent of total employment) for December fell to 2.2%. On a smoothed, twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector ticked up to 2.5%.
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, there was a leveling off for open jobs in construction during 2017, as measured by the rate.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis, was relatively unchanged at 5.3% in December. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs has been relatively stable over the course of the last year. The quits rate has been falling recently, coming in at 1.8% in December.
NAHB expects construction sector net hiring to continue in 2018 as the single-family construction market expands. However, as labor remains a top cited challenge to expansion, builders will increasingly explore options to find ways to build more with less.