Construction Industry Labor Shortage Continues

Framing News,

Originally Published by: Construction Dive — June 5, 2024
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Dive Brief:

  • Job openings in construction dipped from March by 8,000 to 338,000 open positions on the last day of April, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Tuesday. The monthly report measures the seasonally adjusted number of unfilled jobs for which employers are actively hiring.
  • The number of open jobs was the lowest since March 2023, and followed a 24% drop from February to March of this year. April also counted 25,000 fewer open jobs than the same month a year prior. But economists don’t think the continued decrease signals softening demand in commercial construction.
  • “To the extent the demand for construction workers is weakening, it’s likely occurring in the residential segment,” said Anirban Basu, chief economist for Associated Builders and Contractors, in a news release. BLS does not break down numbers into commercial and residential work.

Dive Insight:

The softening in demand may be due to home builders wrapping up several projects in their pipeline, according to Basu.

“More new homes were completed in the first four months of 2024 than during any four-month period dating back to 2007, and the combination of ample new-home inventory, a slumping multifamily segment and high interest rates has cut the demand for new residential construction,” he said in the release.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, cautioned that the data is often revised and updated — for instance, the initial number of job openings in March’s release was increased in Tuesday’s report.

But he also thinks commercial builders have high demand for workers.

“I continue to believe that nonresidential contractors remain very busy overall and are eager to hire more workers. The decline in job openings may be limited to home builders and subcontractors, along with building contractors that work mainly on multifamily, office or warehouse projects,” Simonson told Construction Dive via email.

Another sign that demand hasn’t slowed is the rate difference between quits and layoffs, which signals a tight labor market, Basu noted.

In April, contractors laid off 154,000 workers, while 198,000 workers quit. Layoffs and discharges declined both year over year and month over month, while quits were up compared to recent months and the same time last year.

“The large decline in layoffs suggests firms are trying to hold onto workers — presumably in anticipation of future work — even if they aren’t hiring currently,” Simonson said.