Mixed employment report in August

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residential construction jobs

The latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that employment in residential construction jobs was higher than in the prior month but that employment in apartment operations jobs fell.

Overall jobs number rise

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment increased by 315,000 jobs in August, based on their survey of business establishments. The BLS household survey reported that the US unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent.

Compared to the previous month. the household survey also found that the number of employed persons rose by 442,000 while the number of unemployed persons rose by 344,000.

The household survey found the number of people in the civilian labor force rose by 786,000 during the month while the adult population rose by 172,000. This caused the labor force participation rate to rise from July’s level to 62.4 percent. It had been at 63.4 percent before the pandemic. Recovering that 1.0 percent decline in labor force participation would bring 2.6 million more people into the workforce.

Focus on multifamily

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 July.

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

residential construction jobs and apartment operations jobs history

Construction employment rises

Employment in residential building construction in August, usually with general contractors, was reported to be up by 2,300 jobs (0.3 percent) from the revised (-400) employment level for July at 903,600 jobs. Without the revision, August’s preliminary employment figure is 1,900 jobs higher than the preliminary figure reported for July last month. Employment in this category is up 4.5 percent year-over-year and is now 7.7 percent higher than its level in February 2020.

Employment in residential building trades, i.e. plumbers, electricians, etc., in August was reported to be up 8,600 jobs (0.4 percent) from July’s revised (-2,900) figure at 2,272,900 jobs. Employment in this category is up 3.6 percent year-over-year and is now 6.4 percent above its level in February 2020.

Total employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs combined was up 0.3 percent in August from the revised level of the month before and was 6.8 percent above its level in February 2020.

Apartment operations jobs slip

Employment for residential property managers in July was reported to be down by 1,800 jobs (0.4 percent) from its revised (+1,200) level for June to 494,000 jobs. Without the revision, the preliminary figure for July is down by only 600 jobs from the preliminary figure for June reported last month. Employment for residential property managers is up 2.2 percent year-over-year and is up from its February 2020 level by 2.7 percent.

Employment for lessors of residential buildings was reported to rise in July by 100 jobs to a level of 363,300 jobs. In addition, the prior month’s employment figure was revised upward by 100 jobs. Employment in this category is up 2.8 percent year-over-year but is still 1.5 percent below its pre-pandemic level.

Total employment in these two categories combined was reported to be down 0.2 percent for the month from the revised levels of the month before and is now 0.9 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.

residential construction jobs and apartment operations jobs

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.