The count of unfilled jobs in the construction sector continued to rise in July, following an increase in June and a soft month in May. Given the significant need for repair and restoration work in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we can expect additional increases in the months ahead. NAHB, for example, estimates a need for an additional 10,000 to 20,000 construction workers in Texas for restoration efforts.
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) increased to 232,000 in July. 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 July expanded to 3.2%. On a smoothed twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector held steady at 2.6%.
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, after a spate of data indicate a leveling off of the count of unfilled construction jobs, open positions are again on the rise.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis, was effectively unchanged at 5.3% in July. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs was steady (2.7%), remaining in a range set in 2014. The recent increase in the quits rate, an indicator of labor market churn, continued to slow, falling to a 2% rate.
Overall, the labor market for construction workers remains tight as it continues to expand. Home builders and remodelers added 111,700 jobs over the last 12 months, and industry employment has increased by more than 726,500 since the low point after the Great Recession. As single-family housing starts continue to increase, and rebuilding efforts in Texas and Florida proceed, more workers will be needed in the residential construction sector.