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The number of job losses in the construction sector more than tripled between February and March as the economy was stopped in its tracks by COVID-19.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey data reveals there were 618,000 layoffs in the construction sector in March, a striking increase over the 202,000 total in February and a 245% jump over the 179,000 count in March 2019. It is expected the count will rise even higher when the BLS releases its April data in June.

The March data showed that the layoff rate in the construction industry increased surged to 8.1% in March from a 2.6% level in February. This was the highest rate recorded in the history of the JOLTS data, which began at the end of 2001. The largest layoff rates were recorded in accommodation/food services (31.4%) and arts/entertainment/recreation (21.2%).

Providing further analysis in this Eye on Housing blog post, NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz notes that current anecdotal evidence and four weeks of gains for mortgage application data suggest that the residential portion of the construction industry labor market may now be bottoming out.