The latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that both residential construction jobs and apartment operations jobs again saw gains this month.
Total employment growth disappoints
The BLS reported that employment increased by 210,000 jobs in November, based on their survey of business establishments. This result was well below expectations, meaning that 3 of the last 4 employment reports have disappointed. The establishment survey found that the number of employed persons is still 3.9 million below its pre-pandemic level.
The BLS also reported that the US unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent in October. This metric is derived from a separate survey of households. That survey found that the number of unemployed persons is still 1.2 million above the pre-pandemic level.
The household survey found that the number of people in the labor force grew by 594,000 during the month while the adult population rose by 121,000. The labor force participation rate rose slightly to 61.8 percent. It had been at 63.4 percent 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 is reported with a month delay, so the latest figures for the latter two categories are for the month of October.
The first chart shows the long-term history of the levels of employment in these four jobs categories.
Construction jobs increase
Employment in residential building construction in November, usually with general contractors, was reported to be up 4,100 jobs (0.46 percent) from the revised employment level for October at 888,900 jobs. However, October’s employment figure was revised downward by 200 jobs, accounting for a small part of the reported gain. Employment in this category is up 6.2 percent year-over-year and is now 5.9 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 November was reported to be up 6,200 jobs (0.28 percent) from October’s revised figure at 2,187,100 jobs. However, much of the apparent increase was due to October’s preliminary employment figure being adjusted downward by 4,100 jobs. Employment in this category is up 2.6 percent year-over-year and is now 2.1 percent above its level in February 2020.
Total employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs combined was up 0.34 percent in November from the revised level of the month before and was 3.2 percent above its level in February 2020. However, total employment in these two categories is still 10.8 percent below the level it reached in early 2006.
Apartment operations jobs rise
Employment for residential property managers in October was reported to be up by 2,900 jobs (0.58 percent) from its level for September to 499,200 jobs. However, the September jobs figure was revised downward by 600 jobs so the preliminary figure for October is up by 2,300 jobs from the preliminary figure for September reported last month. Employment for residential property managers is up 3.7 percent year-over-year and is up from its February 2020 level by 3.6 percent.
Employment for lessors of residential buildings was reported to rise in October by just 100 jobs (0.03 percent) to a level of 359,400 jobs. The preliminary employment level reported for September was revised upward by 100 jobs. Employment in this category is up 0.67 percent year-over-year but is still 2.6 percent below its pre-pandemic level.
Total employment in these two categories combined was up 0.9 percent for the month and is now 2.1 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 recent changes in employment levels in these categories 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.