Jobs market growth stalls

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The Employment Situation Report for February from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows little change in employment in jobs categories of interest to builders and operators of multifamily housing.

Total employment

The BLS reported that the US unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in February, with total non-farm employment increasing by 379,000 jobs. The labor force participation rate is now at 61.4 percent, down 1.9 percent from the year-earlier level.

The BLS reported more detailed employment information on four job categories of interest to the multifamily industry. These are employment as residential construction workers, as specialty trades within residential construction, as residential property managers and as lessors of residential buildings. As usual, more detailed data is reported with a month delay, so the latest figures for the latter two categories are for the month of January.

The first chart shows the long-term history of the levels of employment in these four jobs categories.

apartment jobs market

The construction jobs plateau

Employment in residential building construction, usually with general contractors, was up 0.6 percent in February to 857,900 jobs. It has increased every month since April 2020, and it is now up 0.3 percent from its level in February 2020. However, residential building construction employment is still down 16 percent from its level in April 2006 at the height of the housing bubble.

Employment in residential building trades, i.e. plumbers, electricians, etc., was down 0.3 percent in February to a level of 2,131,600 jobs. This was the second monthly decline in a row. It leaves the employment level in this category 0.5 percent below its level in February 2020 before the shutdowns became widespread. Employment in residential building trades is 12 percent below the peak it reached in February 2006

Total employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs taken together was nearly unchanged in February from the month before.

Some of the weakness in construction employment reported for the month may have been caused by the bad weather that affected large regions of the country during February. If so, we may see a rebound in March.

Jobs decline in apartment operations

Employment for residential property managers has recovered all of the jobs lost in the COVID shutdowns. Employment in January was up 0.3 percent from its level in February 2020 at 483,300 jobs. However, employment was down slightly for the month, falling 0.6 percent from December’s level.

The recovery of employment for lessors of residential buildings continues to lag. It is still 2.8 percent below its level in February 2020 at 358,600 jobs. January employment in this category was also down compared to December with a loss in jobs of 0.6 percent.

Total employment in these two categories is back to its level in December 2020 and is 1.0 percent below its level in February 2020.

Another look

The final chart, below, presents the employment data in a slightly different format. It normalizes the employment levels in all four jobs categories to a reading of 100 for January 2015. This shows more clearly the relative magnitudes of the job losses during the shutdowns and strengths of the subsequent recoveries.

apartment jobs market

The numbers given in the Employment Situation report are seasonally adjusted and are subject to revision. It is common for small adjustments to be made in subsequent reports, particularly to the data for the most recent month. The current Employment Situation report can be found here.