Employment Data Show Sluggish Growth

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data for July from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show an economy that is still adding jobs, but at a rate that is too slow to significantly improve the current economic landscape, particularly for housing.

On a national basis, the JOLTS data continue to show that job openings are growing. While layoffs ticked up during the summer, the rate for open positions continues to increase. In fact, the current job openings rate, 2.4% of total employment, is the highest level the economy has experienced since the middle of 2008. However, the hiring rate, at 3%, has hovered at this range since May 2010, which indicates a business sector with open positions but not yet able to increase employment.

A slightly different picture emerges from the JOLTS construction sector data. For July, the hiring rate, at 6% of total employment, fell to its lowest level since the Fall of 2010 (with a one-time exception of January 2011).  Hirings and layoffs were relatively unchanged as business conditions remain weak for construction firms.

We are still projecting that 2011 will be the first year since 2006 in which total hires for the construction sector outnumber total separations. Thus far for the year, however, total hires only outnumber total separations by 8,000 positions, a number we expect to grow as multifamily construction rebounds.

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