Multifamily jobs markets mixed in May

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The latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that jobs categories of interest to builders and operators of multifamily housing had a mixed performance in May.

Total employment growth picks up

The BLS reported that the US unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent in May. Total non-farm employment increased by 559,000 jobs, slightly below expectations. The labor force participation rate was at 61.6 percent. This was down slightly for the month and also down 1.7 percent from February 2020. The number of people employed on non-farm payrolls was still 7.6 million lower than it was before the pandemic.

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, some of the data was reported with a month delay, so the latest figures for the latter two categories are for the month of April.

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

multifamily jobs employment

Residential construction jobs flat

Employment in residential building construction in May, usually with general contractors, was up 4,400 (0.5 percent) from the revised employment level for April at 872,200 jobs. However, part of this increase comes from April’s figure being revised downward by 1,400 jobs. Employment in this category is now 3.9 percent higher than its level in February 2020, before the effects of the pandemic were felt.

Employment in residential building trades, i.e. plumbers, electricians, etc., in May was down 2,500 jobs (0.1 percent) from April’s revised figure to a level of 2,144,200. However, the comparison would have been much worse except that April’s employment level was revised sharply downward by 11,700 jobs. The employment level in this category is now only 0.1 percent above its level in February 2020.

Total employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs combined was up 0.1 percent in May from the revised level of the month before and was 1.2 percent above its level in February 2020.

Jobs up in apartment operations

Employment for residential property managers in April was up 1,700 jobs (0.5 percent) from its revised level for March, to 488,000 jobs. However, the figure for March was adjusted downward by 600 jobs, accounting for over a third of the reported gain. Employment was up from its February 2020 level by 1.3 percent.

Employment for lessors of residential buildings rose by 1,500 jobs (0.4 percent) in April to a level of 358,800 jobs. Employment in this category is now down 2.8 percent from its pre-pandemic level.

Total employment in these two categories combined is still 0.5 percent below its level in February 2020.

Zooming in

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.

multifamily jobs relative employment

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.