The latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the numbers of both residential construction jobs and apartment operations jobs were down in December.
Total employment growth disappoints
The BLS reported that employment increased by 199,000 jobs in December, based on their survey of business establishments. This result was below expectations, meaning that 4 of the last 5 employment reports have failed to reach anticipated levels of job growth. The establishment survey found that the number of employed persons is still 3.6 million below its pre-pandemic level.
The BLS also reported that the US unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in December. This metric is derived from a separate survey of households. That survey found that the number of unemployed persons fell by 483,000, but it is still 600,000 above the pre-pandemic level.
The household survey found that the number of people in the civilian labor force grew by 168,000 during the month while the adult population rose by 105,000. The labor force participation rate was unchanged from November’s revised level at 61.9 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 November.
The first chart shows the long-term history of the levels of employment in these four jobs categories.
Construction jobs decline
Employment in residential building construction in December, usually with general contractors, was reported to be up 700 jobs (0.08 percent) from the revised employment level for November at 886,400 jobs. However, November’s employment figure was revised downward by 3,200 jobs, so December’s preliminary employment is actually 2,500 jobs lower than the preliminary figure reported for November last month. Employment in this category is up 4.6 percent year-over-year and is now 6.5 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 December was reported to be down 4,800 jobs (0.22 percent) from November’s revised figure at 2,176,300 jobs. However, November’s preliminary employment figure was adjusted downward by 6,000 jobs. Employment in this category is still up 1.7 percent year-over-year and is now 3.2 percent above its level in February 2020.
Total employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs combined was down 0.13 percent in December from the revised level of the month before and was 4.1 percent above its level in February 2020.
Apartment operations jobs also fall
Employment for residential property managers in November was reported to be down by 1,800 jobs (0.36 percent) from its level for October to 498,200 jobs. However, the October jobs figure was revised upward by 800 jobs so the preliminary figure for November is 1,000 jobs lower than the preliminary figure for October reported last month. Employment for residential property managers is up 3.0 percent year-over-year and is up from its February 2020 level by 4.1 percent.
Employment for lessors of residential buildings was reported to rise in November by 600 jobs (0.17 percent) to a level of 359,500 jobs. The preliminary employment level reported for October was revised downward by 500 jobs, accounting for most of the gain. Employment in this category is up 0.39 percent year-over-year and is now 2.0 percent below its pre-pandemic level.
Total employment in these two categories of apartment operations jobs combined was down 0.14 percent for the month and is now 1.5 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.