The latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that both residential construction jobs and apartment operations jobs were up for the month.
Total employment grows slowly for the month
The BLS reported that employment increased by only 194,000 jobs in September, according to their survey of business establishments. This is second month in a row where the increase in employment fell well short of expectations. Economists had been expecting employment to increase by about 500,000 during the month. The establishment survey found that the number of employed persons is still 5.0 million below the pre-pandemic level.
The BLS also reported that the US unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent in September. This metric is derived from a separate survey of households. That survey found that the number of people in the labor force fell by 183,000 despite the adult population rising by 155,000 during the month. The household survey found that the number of unemployed persons is now 2.0 million above the pre-pandemic level.
The labor force participation rate fell to 61.6 percent, which is down 0.1 percent on the month and down from the 63.4 percent level it had reached in January 2020, shortly before the pandemic struck. The labor force participation rate had been as high as 67.3 percent as recently as February 2000.
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 is reported with a month delay, so the latest figures for the latter two categories are for the month of August.
The first chart shows the long-term history of the levels of employment in these four jobs categories.
Construction jobs rise slowly
Residential building construction employment in September, usually with general contractors, was reported to be up 2,200 jobs (0.25 percent) from the revised employment level for August at 882,300 jobs. Part of this increase was due to August’s employment figure being revised downward by 600 jobs. Employment in this category is now 5.0 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 September was reported to be up 1,200 jobs (0.06 percent) from August’s revised figure at a level of 2,178,500 jobs. However, almost all of the apparent increase was due to August’s employment figure being adjusted downward by 1,100 jobs. The employment level in this category is now 1.7 percent above its level in February 2020.
Total employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs combined was up 0.1 percent in September from the revised level of the month before and was 2.7 percent above its level in February 2020.
Apartment operations jobs rise
Employment for residential property managers in August was reported to be up by 300 jobs (0.1 percent) from its level for July to 491,400 jobs. In addition, the July jobs figure was revised upward by 300 jobs so the preliminary figure for August is up by 600 jobs from the preliminary figure for July reported last month. Employment for residential property managers was up from its February 2020 level by 2.0 percent.
Employment for lessors of residential buildings was reported to rise in August by 900 jobs (0.25 percent) to a level of 355,900 jobs. In addition, July’s preliminary figure was revised upward by 1,500 jobs, so employment in this category was reported to be 2,400 jobs higher than the preliminary level for July reported last month. Employment in this category is still 3.6 percent below its pre-pandemic level.
Total employment in these two categories combined was up 0.14 percent for the month and is now 0.4 percent below its level in February 2020.
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.
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.