WASHINGTON, March 8—The construction industry reported 248,000 job openings in January, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. JOLTS defines a job opening as any unfilled position for which an employer is actively recruiting. Industry job openings fell sharply last month, down 240,000 on a monthly basis and 148,000 from the same time last year.
“Today’s construction job openings number was simply shocking,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “While the total number of job openings economywide stood at a lofty 10.8 million at the end of January, meaning that there are still nearly two job openings for every unemployed American, the number of construction job openings plummeted from 488,000 in December to 248,000 just one month later, according to the JOLTS report. In other words, almost one-half of all construction job openings disappeared in a single month.
“In a nation that is set to rebuild much of its infrastructure and is operating in the megaproject era, including the construction of manufacturing facilities for computer chips, inputs to growing alternative energy industries and electric vehicles, today’s numbers seemingly defy credulity,” said Basu. “That said, job openings figures are not broken down by residential versus nonresidential construction, and while many nonresidential contractors continue to report lengthy backlog and numerous open jobs, the single-family homebuilding segment has entered a period of significant retrenchment.
“Accordingly, while this construction job openings number is likely to be revised or at least eventually viewed as aberrational as new data arrive, there are likely some construction segments that have substantially slowed their pace of hiring,” said Basu. “Yesterday’s commentary by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell suggests that interest rates are set to go higher and stay elevated for longer than many had previously thought, which means that it may be a long time before construction job openings return to their previous highs.”