Construction job churn continues but so does growth

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The Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report for April was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this week. Its data on construction employment shows continued churning in that segment of the construction job market although the overall trend is for job growth.

There is also a recent blog post on the JOLT report for the job market segment which includes multifamily employment. It can be found here.

Construction is different

The first chart shows the turn over in the construction job market. Since the monthly data is volatile, it looks at the averages of the figures reported for the past three months.

The striking thing about this chart is the relationship between job openings and hires. In most occupations, the total number of hires in a month are less than the number of job openings remaining at the end of the month. Not so for construction where the number of hires is significantly higher than the month-end job openings. This indicates that construction workers are taken on relatively quickly compared to workers in other occupations.

Another difference in the construction labor market highlighted by this chart is the higher level of worker separations compared to other occupations. More on that in the next chart.

construction job churn

The second chart, below, shows the reasons for job separations in the construction industry compared to the reasons for all private sector employment. The striking thing about this chart is how layoffs and involuntary terminations drive job separations in construction. The business model in the industry seems to be to bring in people to work on a specific project and to let them go when the project is over. Since lots of hiring is going on all of the time, workers have an opportunity to catch on at some other project when they are let go.

construction separations

The last chart shows the month by month reports on construction job openings, hires and separations. It also shows a calculation of job growth, which is just hires minus separations. It shows that, despite the churn in the construction job market, the overall number of construction jobs has been on a growth trend. In fact, another report from the BLS indicated that overall construction employment is up 4.1 percent since May, 2017 and residential construction employment is up 5.9 percent over the same time frame.

construction employment trends