The count of unfilled jobs in the construction sector increased in March and approached the post-Great Recession high level.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and analysis by the National Association of Home Builders, the number of open construction sector jobs increased to 248,000 in March. The post-recession high count of open, unfilled construction jobs was 255,000 in July of last year. The number of open construction-sector jobs was 179,000 a year ago.
The open position rate (job openings as a percentage of total employment plus current job openings) for March increased to 3.4%. On a smoothed, twelve-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector remained at 2.9%, 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, ticked down to 5.1% in March. The twelve-month moving average for layoffs is falling again, held at 2.6%.
NAHB expects construction sector net hiring to continue in 2018 as the single-family construction market expands. However, as labor remains a top cited challenge to expansion, builders will increasingly explore options to find ways to build more with less.