July Construction Hiring Suggests Continued Housing Surge

Originally published by: NAHBSeptember 9, 2020

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After an accelerated pace of layoffs in March and April, construction hiring roared back in May, increasing the count of open jobs in July per data from the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).  The rebound for construction is concentrated in the residential building sector.

The pace of construction rehiring increased the open jobs rate to 4.4% in July, with 344,000 total of open construction sector jobs. This is only somewhat smaller than the count of 352,000 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 continues to normalize, after it posted a 9.7% gain in May and 7% in June. It reached 5.6% in July. This is still higher than the 5% rate of hiring a year prior.

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 just 2.5% (May), 2.7% (June), and 2.8% (July).

Graph of the construction labor market

Looking forward, the job openings rate is likely to experience choppiness in the months ahead given the divergent paths within the construction industry. Home building and remodeling are relative bright spots for the overall economy, while nonresidential construction will experience a period of weakness.