Number of Unfilled Construction Positions Remains High Despite Dip in October

December 23, 2019
Builders in Construction
Close up. Engineers in Shirts and Orange Helmets By VadimGuzhva - Adobe Stock

Builders found some relief in October from the labor shortage that has been plaguing home building since the Great Recession. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, the number of unfilled positions decreased by over 300,000 in October. Experts expect increased building activity for 2020 to push number of positions down further, but it remains to be seen if this demand will be enough to pull the industry into a comfortable employment level. Even if it alleviates some of the stress, the million dollar question remains: How do builders recruit new quality workers to the trades?

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data show construction job openings in October posted a slight decline from the prior month but remain well above year-ago levels. The estimated number of construction jobs open in October was 311,000, down from a September total of 327,000 and April’s post-Great Recession high of 434,000. But the October count is well above the 278,000 unfilled sector jobs in October 2018.

NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz noted in an Eye on Housing blog post that the open positions rate (job openings as a percentage of total employment plus current job openings) dipped to 4% in October, after reaching a cycle high of 5.5% in April. On a smoothed, 12-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector held steady at 4.3%.

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