In the July labor market data, job openings for the overall economy increased to 10.9 million open positions. What had been a challenge in certain sectors, like construction, continues as a broad labor access issue as businesses seek workers as the economy reopens.
The count of open construction jobs weakened in July to 321,000 unfilled positions, according to data from the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The housing market remains underbuilt and requires additional labor, lots and lumber and building materials to add inventory.
Overall, hiring in the construction sector remained solid in July, increasing to a 5.2% rate. The post-virus peak rate of hiring occurred in May 2020 (10.3%) as a rebound took hold in home building and remodeling. Hiring has generally slowed since that time, with the exception of a weather-related rebound in March 2021. Hiring has been impeded due to a lack of workers.
Construction sector layoffs ticked down in July to a 2.4% rate. In April 2020, the layoff rate was 10.9%. Since that time however, the sector layoff rate has been below 3%, with the exception of February 2021 due to weather effects.
The job openings rate in construction edged down to 4.2% in July, with 321,000 open positions in the sector. This is higher than the 298,000 count recorded a year ago.
Looking forward, the construction job openings rate is likely to see increased upward pressure as both the residential and nonresidential construction sectors trend higher. Attracting skilled labor will remain a key objective for construction firms in the coming quarters and will become more challenging as the labor market strengthens.