The count of unfilled jobs in the construction sector pulled back in September, off a upwardly revised August estimate that marked a post-recession high.
According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and NAHB analysis, the number of open construction sector jobs decreased to 278,000 in September. The August estimate of open construction jobs was revised up to 317,000, the largest count since the Great Recession.
The open position rate (job openings as a percentage of total employment plus current job openings) fell back to 3.7% in September. The rate was 2.5% last September. On a smoothed, twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector increased slightly to 3.3%, a post-recession high. The peak (smoothed) rate during the building boom prior to the recession was just below 2.7%. For the current cycle, the sector has been above that rate since November 2016.
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.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis, held steady at 5% in September. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs was also stable at 2.3%. The trend for layoffs has been decreasing as the labor market tightens.
NAHB expects construction sector net hiring to continue in 2018 as the single-family construction market modestly expands, although recent slowing of the housing market will reduce those impacts. As labor remains a top cited challenge to expansion, builders will increasingly explore options to find ways to build more with less.