The latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that both residential construction jobs and apartment operations jobs saw gains for the month.
Total employment growth meets expectations
The BLS reported that employment increased by 531,000 jobs in October according to their survey of business establishments. This was a solid performance after two months in which employment gains fell well short of expectations. However, the establishment survey found that the number of employed persons is still 4.2 million below the pre-pandemic level.
The BLS reported that the US unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in October. This metric is derived from a separate survey of households. That survey found that the number of people in the labor force grew by 104,000 and that the adult population rose by 142,000 during the month. The household survey found that the number of unemployed persons is still 1.7 million above the pre-pandemic level.
The labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 61.6 percent in October. This is down from the 63.4 percent level it had reached in January 2020, shortly before the pandemic struck.
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 September.
The first chart shows the long-term history of the levels of employment in these four jobs categories.
Construction jobs continue to climb
Employment in residential building construction in October, usually with general contractors, was reported to be up 1,800 jobs (0.20 percent) from the revised employment level for September at 885,000 jobs. In addition, September’s employment figure was revised upward by 900 jobs, so the preliminary employment level for October is actually 2,700 jobs higher than the preliminary employment level for September reported last month. Employment in this category is now 5.4 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 October was reported to be up 9,100 jobs (0.42 percent) from September’s revised figure at a level of 2,185,000 jobs. However, part of the apparent increase was due to September’s preliminary employment figure being adjusted downward by 2,600 jobs. The employment level in this category is now 2.0 percent above its level in February 2020.
Total employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs combined was up 0.36 percent in October from the revised level of the month before and was 3.0 percent above its level in February 2020. However, total employment in these two categories is still 11 percent below the level it reached in early 2006.
Apartment operations jobs rise
Employment for residential property managers in September was reported to be up by 4,200 jobs (0.85 percent) from its level for August to 496,900 jobs. In addition, the August jobs figure was revised upward by 1,300 jobs so the preliminary figure for September is up by 5,500 jobs from the preliminary figure for August reported last month. Employment for residential property managers was up from its February 2020 level by 3.1 percent.
Employment for lessors of residential buildings was reported to rise in September by 3,300 jobs (0.93 percent) to a level of 359,200 jobs. The preliminary employment level reported for August was left unchanged. Employment in this category is now 2.7 percent below its pre-pandemic level.
Total employment in these two categories combined was up 0.9 percent for the month and is now 0.6 percent above 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 presentation makes relative growth rates of the different jobs categories more apparent and the recent uptick in hiring for apartment operations jobs more visible.
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.