The following is a direct excerpt from the HBI Construction Labor Market Report from Fall 2021. The data is based on research of the Research of the Economics Group, National Association of Home Builders.
Residential Construction Employment Stats
Total construction industry (both residential and non-residential) payroll employment totaled 7.42 million in August 2021. Out of this total, residential construction employment now stands at 3.1 million in August, broken down as 881,000 builders and 2.2 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction was 10,550 a month.
Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers added 153,300 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 1,076,700 positions. In August, the unemployment rate for construction workers declined by 1.4 percentage points to 5.9% on a seasonally adjusted basis. The unemployment rate for construction workers has been trending lower, after reaching 14.1% in April 2020, due to the housing demand impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Level Employment Data
Across the 48 states which reported construction sector jobs data—which includes both
residential as well as non-residential construction— 29 states reported an increase in July
compared to June, while 17 states lost construction sector jobs. Kansas and Tennessee
reported no change. North Carolina added 4,300 construction jobs while Colorado lost 1,600.
Overall, the construction industry gained 11,000 jobs in July compared to the previous month. In percentage terms, New Jersey increased by 2.7% while New Hampshire reported a decline of 2.2% between June and July. Year-over-year, construction sector jobs in the U.S. increased by 224,000, which is a 3.1% increase compared to the July 2020 level. California added 39,900 jobs, which was the largest gain of any state, while New York lost 3,600 jobs, which was the largest decline. In percentage terms, Rhode Island had the highest annual growth rate in the construction sector by 15.1%. Over this period, Wyoming reported the largest decline at 4.3%.
The job openings rate in construction edged down to 4.2% in July, with 321,000 open positions in the sector. This is higher than the 298,000 count recorded a year ago. Looking forward, the construction job openings rate is likely to see increased upward pressure as both the residential and nonresidential construction sectors trend higher. Attracting skilled labor will remain a key objective for construction firms in the coming quarters and will become more challenging as the labor market strengthens.
Self-Employment in Residential Construction
The timely payroll employment and unemployment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) do not include self-employed workers. Counting self-employed is particularly important in the home building industry since they traditionally make up a larger share of the labor force. According to the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS), 22% (2.4 million) of construction workers are self-employed. This is significantly higher than an economy-wide average of 9.7% of the employed labor force. Nevertheless, construction self-employment rates are now lowest on record, down from a record high of over 26% in 2010.
The construction industry has been adding payroll jobs since 2011 while the number of self-
employed construction workers continued dwindling until 2015 and registered only modest gains since then. In 2019, construction payroll employment exceeded 8 million workers thus breaking the previous payroll record of 7.9 million set in 2006. In comparison, the number of self-employed workers in construction remained 11% below the cyclical high of 2.7 million reached in 2006.