Data from the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) indicate that construction job openings posted a monthly decline in November and a substantial decrease on a year-over-year basis.
The estimated number of job openings declined from the October total (326,000) to 214,000 in November, after reaching a post-Great Recession high of 434,000 in April. The November 2019 count of unfilled jobs represents a year-over-year decline relative to the 279,000 estimated unfilled construction jobs in November 2018.
The open positions rate (job openings as a percentage of total employment plus current job openings) dipped to 2.8% in November, after reaching a cycle high of 5.5% in April. On a smoothed, twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector held declined to 4.3%. 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 October 2016. However, the soft patch for housing during the first half of 2019 is having an impact on labor demand, and residential construction job gains have slowed.
The overall trend for open construction jobs has been, generally, increasing since the end of the Great Recession. This matches NAHB and other survey data revealing that access to skilled labor remains a top business challenge for builders, affecting a broad set of occupations. However, ongoing modest growth rates for housing construction are likely to place downward pressure on construction job openings in future data releases. Recent data suggest that the count of open, unfilled jobs is near a cycle peak, while remaining elevated. This would nonetheless be a continuing sign for the need for additional worker recruitment into the industry.
The construction sector hiring rate, as measured on a twelve-month moving average basis, held steady at 5.5% in November as the housing rebound continued. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs ticked up to 2.7%, continuing a rising trend in recent months, likely connected to some market churn associated with housing affordability headwinds.