Construction Job Openings Reach New Cycle High


The count of unfilled jobs in the construction sector continued to rise in August, reaching the highest level since February 2007. 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.

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 247,000 in August. This represents a 34% increase since August 2016.

The open position rate (job openings as a percent of total employment) for August expanded to 3.5%. On a smoothed twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector increased to 2.7%.

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 at he start of the year 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 August, while the monthly rate increased to 5.6%. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs was steady (2.7%), remaining in a range set in 2014. The quits rate remained at 2%. Overall, the uptick in hiring along with rise in job openings is consistent with a construction market that is supply-side constrained.

Overall, the labor market for construction workers remains tight as it continues to expand. Home builders and remodelers added 80,600 jobs over the last 12 months, and industry employment has increased by more than 710,000 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.

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