The count of unfilled jobs in the construction sector increased slightly in February, after two months of lower levels of open positions.
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) rose to 169,000 in February. The cycle high is 238,000, set in July of last year.
The open position rate (job openings as a percent of total employment) for February increased to 2.4%. On a smoothed twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector held steady at 2.7%, 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 late 2014.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis, held at 5.1% in February. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs was steady (2.6%), remaining in a range set last fall. Quits have been rising recently, increasing to 2.4% in February. This is the highest rates of quits for the cycle.
Monthly employment data for March 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 turned negative, declining by 7,600 positions. This was the first monthly decline in 9 months and comes after a rapid set of gains from November through February. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction fell somewhat to just above a 13,000 monthly gain.
Residential construction employment now stands at 2.693 million, broken down as 768,000 builders and 1.93 million residential specialty trade contractors.
Over the last 12 months home builders and remodelers have added 113,000 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 710,200 positions.
In March, the unemployment rate for construction workers stood at 6.9% 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.