Construction job openings surge 41% year over year

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Dive Brief:

  • The construction industry counted 413,000 open jobs on the last day of January, a 41% increase year over year, or 120,000 more unfilled positions, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Wednesday.
  • The report measures the number of jobs for which employers are actively hiring, yet remain unfilled. At the end of January, 4.4% of construction jobs went unfilled, down slightly from 4.7% in December and 5% a year prior.
  • Quits hardly changed from December, and were down 19.6% year over year. Meanwhile the industry counted about 40% more layoffs in January 2024 than in the same month in 2023. 

Dive Insight:

January’s rate of quits was the lowest — and its rate of layoffs and discharges the highest — since March 2023, according to Anirban Basu, chief economist of Associated Builders and Contractors.

“Fortunately, this likely reflects the temporary effects of frigid weather on the industry rather than any broader slowing of construction activity,” Basu wrote in a release about the BLS data. At the same time, he characterized the numbers as “signs of potential softening demand for construction workers.”

It’s a complicated time for labor, and one of potential change.

For one thing, on March 11, a new rule from the Department of Labor will redefine the Fair Labor Standards Act’s definition of an “independent contractor,” meaning more workers who previously were classified as contractors rather than employees will be considered the latter, and, as such, be owed benefits reflecting that status.

The National Labor Relations Board’s final rule on joint employer status will also go into effect March 11, barring additional delays. That rule could mean more general contractors finding themselves liable for workers employed directly by subcontractors. 

Meanwhile, construction is seeing a boom with infrastructure and manufacturing investments leading to high backlogs, yet many of those projects are often remote and far from a reliable pool of workers, meaning contractors have had to get creative with how to staff their projects.

Despite those changes, ABC says a majority of contractors expect to increase their staffing levels over the next six months.

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