JOLTS September: Construction Labor Shortages

by Olevia Sharbaugh Starkey, Economist at Dodge Construction Network

U.S. job openings posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for September came in only marginally higher than last month’s revised estimate, at 9.6 million. The largest increase came from the Leisure and Hospitality sector with a total increase in openings of 181,000 from August to September. The largest declines came from Professional and Business Services, at 105,000. This sector experienced a revised increase of 305,000 openings last month, so this decrease could be the market adjusting back to trend after August’s burst of activity.

The construction sector followed the positive national trend, with an increase of 56,000 job openings as of the last day of September. This increase comes after a smaller rise from July to August (22,000) and a decline from June to July (33,000). Despite its apparent volatility, job openings in the construction sector have shown a tendency to increase more frequently than decrease in the first 9 months of 2023.  With 3 months of decline to the 6 months of increases in openings, this data could point to an overarching theme in the industry as of late.

Total construction starts in September slipped 6% according to DCN data. This decline could be due to uncertainty surrounding the price of energy, interest rates, or even permitting problems, but the lack of labor seems to be taking the cake. Construction Dive reported in September that three manufacturing megaprojects were put on hold due in large part to the inability to secure qualified labor for construction. The increase in job openings and decrease in the hiring rate for the construction industry in September are certainly in line with this narrative.

Though the growth of total construction in 2023 is expected to remain positive, the sector will continue to face significant headwinds when it comes to finding labor.

JOLTSGraph 11.1

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