Construction Labor Market Adjustment Continues


The shock and fallout to the construction labor market from the recession of 2020 continued in early Fall as housing activity strengthened due to low interest rates.

After an accelerated pace of layoffs in March and April, construction hiring roared back in May and June, per data from the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).  More recent July and August data reveal a more normalized count of hiring and layoffs, as builders added to the construction sector workforce.

The seesawing of job losses and hiring has had mixed effects on total job openings in the construction sector. After an open count of 332,000 in July, the count fell to 264,000 in August. This is smaller than the open count of 353,000 a year ago. However, builders continue to cite limited access to skilled construction workers as a concern as they seek labor to undertake more home construction and remodeling.

The construction sector hiring rate also continues to adjust, after it posted a 9.7% gain in May and 7% in June. It registered 5.5% rate in July and August, which is the same percentage reported a year ago.

Construction sector layoffs have been low since May. In April, the layoff rate was 10.8%, after a loss of 7.9% in March. Since that time however, the layoff rate has been below 3%: 2.5% in May and 2.7% in June and July and 2.8% in August.



Looking forward, the job openings rate is likely to experience choppiness in the months ahead given divergent outlooks within the construction industry. Home building and remodeling are relative bright spots for the overall economy, while nonresidential construction will experience greater headwinds. Nonetheless, in total the BLS jobs market report estimated that the overall construction industry added, on a net basis, 17,000 jobs in August and 26,000 more in September.

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