Construction job openings spike higher

Dive Brief:

  • In a sign that rising interest rates and talk of recession have yet to cool the scorching construction labor market, job openings in the sector increased 22,000 in July from June, up 4.6%, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data from Associated Builders and Contractors.
  • There are now 375,000 unfilled construction positions, 38,000 more than a year ago, which is an 11.3% increase. At the same time, construction workers quit their jobs at a faster rate than they were laid off or discharged for the 17th consecutive month in July, ABC said.
  • “The share of contractors who expect to increase their staffing levels over the next half year remains elevated but has declined in recent months,” said Anirban Basu, ABC’s chief economist, in a statement. “As long as the supply of labor remains inadequate to meet the demand for workers, the industry will continue to experience upward wage pressures.”

Dive Insight

The data was pulled from the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and came in hotter than expected for the overall economy as well, after a slowdown in June when there were 71,000 fewer unfilled construction jobs than the previous month. That was actually seen as good news at the time as a harbinger of a cooling economy that could presage lower prices and demand on a strapped supply chain.

A chart shows a spike in construction job openings for July 2022.

Courtesy of Associated Builders and Contractors

But Tuesday’s report walked back any optimism from that pullback by providing more ammunition for the Federal Reserve to continue its aggressive interest rate hike campaign as it fights the fastest-rising inflation levels of the last 40 years. In the broader economy, job openings outnumber available workers by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, according to CNBC

Construction job openings and labor turnover data, July 2022
  July 2022 June 2021 Change
Job openings 375,000 337,000 11.3%
Layoffs 144,000 138,000 4.3%
Quits 193,000 190,000 1.6%

SOURCE: BLS, ABC

“Today’s JOLTS release is receiving considerable attention because many hoped that job openings would decrease for the second consecutive month in July,” Basu said. “That did not come to pass. Economywide job openings bounced back in July and remain more than 60% above pre-pandemic levels.”

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