Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data for September from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that the national economy, while sluggish, continues to trend better with respect to job openings. Total job openings for all non-farm sectors stood at 3.4 million, the higher number of openings since August 2008. This is a 7% increase over the August JOLTS data and a 22% increase year-over-year.
The job openings rate of 2.5% for September is the highest such rate since the middle of 2008. The growing number of open positions bodes well for future employment growth, provided employers can find workers with needed job skills and employees can relocate to areas with open jobs, which is sometimes a challenge given ongoing weakness in the housing market.
Hiring in the construction sector (both residential and non-residential) took a surprising jump in September, with the hirings rate increasing to 7.3%, the highest rate since early 2004. This increase may just be a response to a weaker August, but the September data are consistent with the improving trend in construction hiring.
The total number of construction hires in September (404,000) was the highest monthly total since the beginning of 2007. Total construction sector hires in 2011 are still on pace to exceed total separations for the first time since 2006, with hires now exceeding quits, layoffs, and other separations by 37,000 positions.