Multifamily employment grows in March

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The latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the number of residential construction jobs and of apartment operations jobs both rose for the month.

Total employment grows

The BLS reported that employment increased by 431,000 jobs in March, based on its survey of business establishments. The establishment survey found that the number of employed persons is still 1.0 million below its pre-pandemic level despite the civilian noninstitutional population of the country rising by 3.8 million since February 2020.

The BLS also reported that the US unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent in March. This metric is derived from a separate survey of households. That survey found that the number of unemployed persons fell by 318,000. However, the number of unemployed persons is still 235,000 above its pre-pandemic level.

The household survey found that the number of people in the civilian labor force grew by 418,000 during the month while the adult population rose by 120,000. The labor force participation rate edged up from February’s level to 62.4 percent. It had been at 63.4 percent before the pandemic. Recovering that 1.0 percent decline in participation would bring 2.6 million more people into the workforce.

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 February.

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

Construction employment rises overall

Employment in residential building construction in March, usually with general contractors, was reported to be down 2,600 jobs (-0.3 percent) from the revised employment level for February at 889,400 jobs. However, February’s employment figure was revised upward by 900 jobs, so March’s preliminary employment is 1,700 jobs lower than the preliminary figure reported for February last month. Employment in this category is up 3.6 percent year-over-year and is now 6.0 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 March was reported to be up 10,200 jobs (0.5 percent) from February’s revised figure at 2,246,000 jobs. However, February’s preliminary employment figure was revised downward by 7,700 jobs in this month’s report accounting for much of the reported increase. Employment in this category is up 3.3 percent year-over-year and is now 5.2 percent above its level in February 2020.

Total employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs combined was up 0.2 percent in March from the revised level of the month before and was 5.4 percent above its level in February 2020.

Apartment operations jobs higher

Employment for residential property managers in February was reported to be up by 1,900 jobs (0.4 percent) from its revised level for January to 490,700 jobs. However, the January jobs figure was revised upward by 200 jobs, so the preliminary figure for February is up by 2,100 jobs from the preliminary figure for January reported last month. Employment for residential property managers is up 3.5 percent year-over-year and is up from its February 2020 level by 2.0 percent.

Employment for lessors of residential buildings was reported to rise in February by 3,200 jobs (0.9 percent) to a level of 363,100 jobs. The preliminary employment level reported for January was unchanged in this month’s report. Employment in this category is up 1.8 percent year-over-year and is now 1.5 percent below its pre-pandemic level.

Total employment in these two categories combined was up 0.6 percent for the month and is now 0.5 percent above 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 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.