Builder Job Quits And The Retention Rate Challenge Ahead
One in three entrants into the field of construction bolts to another occupation within 24 months. A culture pivot is essential.
For every three young people construction manages to attract to its noblest of livelihoods these days, one misses the calling and drops out.
This past month's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) release from the Bureau of Labor Services shined a light on not one, but two, pain points in builders' struggle to turn the tides on the community's chronic skilled labor imbalances.
The headline, as National Association of Home Builders chief economist Robert Dietz notes here, is a widening gap in open payroll positions – which are cresting at nearly a two-year-high-water mark – and new hires. The discrepancy reflects a vicious-circle of reluctance to front money for more workers when uncertainty and doubt on the materials and product supply chains cloud visibility into construction-cycle workflows.
The job openings rate in construction increased to 4.6% in April, with 357,000 open positions in the sector. This is higher than the 220,000 count recorded a year ago and is the highest level since May 2019.
Looking forward, the construction job openings rate is likely to experience choppiness in the months ahead given divergent outlooks within the construction industry. Nonetheless, attracting skilled labor will remain a key objective for residential and nonresidential construction firms in the coming quarters and will become more challenging as the rest of the economy reopens.
Beneath the surface however, is a challenge that piggybacks building's ability to attract talented young people into the community's ranks: the ability to keep them.
JOLTS data notes that in April, construction employers experienced 176,000 "quits" from their organizations. Some fair number of those voluntary departures meant talent found better jobs within construction, but some fled the business altogether.
It may also be a sign of encouragement that construction as an industry experienced a lower than average quits rate in comparison with other industry sectors, and that the construction industry's rate of quits declined month over month.
However, when the real-world rate of quits – abandonment of building altogether – is one of every three new entrants into the field, it speaks to the construction community's culture, its ability to nurture and grow, and train and engage new young talent so that they foresee careers where they can learn, prosper, start their own firms, and commit to becoming examples and champions of building as a purposeful livelihood.