The count of unfilled jobs in the construction sector decreased in November, as building activity declined with higher interest rates at the end of 2018.
According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and NAHB analysis, the number of open construction sector jobs fell to 278,000 in November. The October estimate was revised up to a cycle high of 323,000 – the highest count of open, unfilled construction sector jobs in the history of the data series, which began with reporting in December 2000.
The open position rate (job openings as a percentage of total employment plus current job openings) fell from 4.2% to 3.7%. The rate was 3.1% a year ago. On a smoothed, twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector increased slightly to 3.4%, 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. However, declines for housing construction activity at the end of 2018 are likely to place downward pressure on construction job openings in future data releases. Indeed, the count of job quits (189,000 in November, a post-recession high) reflects an uptick in job churn in the sector.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis, held steady at 5% in November. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs declined to 2.2%. The trend for layoffs has been decreasing as the labor market tightens.