The latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the numbers of residential construction jobs and of apartment operations jobs both rose for the month, but not all multifamily jobs categories rose evenly.
Total employment moves higher
The BLS reported that employment increased by 428,000 jobs in April, based on their survey of business establishments. The establishment survey found that the number of employed persons is now 200,000 below its pre-pandemic level. However, the civilian noninstitutional population of people over 16 years old of the country has increased by 3.93 million since February 2020, so the portion of employed persons in the population is down from pre-pandemic levels.
The BLS also reported that the US unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent in April. This metric is derived from a separate survey of households. That survey found that the number of unemployed persons fell by 11,000 during the month. However, the number of unemployed persons is still 224,000 above the pre-pandemic level.
The household survey found that the number of people in the civilian labor force fell by 363,000 during the month while the adult population rose by 115,000. The labor force participation rate declined from March’s revised level to 62.2 percent. It had been at 63.4 percent before the pandemic. Recovering that 1.2 percent decline in participation would bring 3.2 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 March.
The first chart shows the long-term history of the levels of employment in these four jobs categories.
Construction employment up overall
Employment in residential building construction in April, usually with general contractors, was reported to be up 3,500 jobs (0.4 percent) from the revised employment level for March at 896,600 jobs. In addition, March’s employment figure was revised upward by 3,700 jobs, turning last month’s reported employment loss into an employment gain. April’s preliminary employment figure is actually 7,200 jobs higher than the preliminary figure reported for March last month. Employment in this multifamily jobs category is up 5.2 percent year-over-year and is now 6.4 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 April was reported to be up 1,900 jobs (0.2 percent) from March’s revised figure at 2,243,100 jobs. However, March’s preliminary employment figure was revised downward by 3,400 jobs in this month’s report. Without this revision, employment in this multifamily jobs category would have fallen during the month. Employment in this category is up 3.2 percent year-over-year and is now 5.0 percent above its level in February 2020.
Total employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs combined was up 0.1 percent in April 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 March was reported to be up by 1,800 jobs (0.4 percent) from its revised level for February to 491,200 jobs. However, the February jobs figure was revised downward by 1,300 jobs, so the preliminary figure for March is up by only 500 jobs from the preliminary figure for February reported last month. Employment for residential property managers is up 3.2 percent year-over-year and is up from its February 2020 level by 2.1 percent.
Employment for lessors of residential buildings was reported to rise in March by 100 jobs to a level of 363,000 jobs. However, the preliminary employment level reported for February was revised downward by 200 jobs in this month’s report and without this revision employment would have been reported to fall. Employment in this multifamily jobs category is up 1.8 percent year-over-year and is now 1.6 percent below its pre-pandemic level.
Total employment in these two multifamily jobs categories combined was up 0.2 percent for the month and is now 0.5 percent above its level in February 2020.
A closer look
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.