Construction employment higher in January

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construction jobs

The Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that both residential construction employment and apartment operations employment edged higher in the latest month.

Note that this report incorporates revisions to population estimates and to seasonal adjustment factors. These revisions are in addition to the usual revisions to the tabulated data.

Economy adds jobs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment increased by 517,000 jobs in January, based on their survey of business establishments. This compares to employment gains of 260,000 jobs in December and 290,000 jobs in November.

The BLS household survey reported that the US unemployment rate fell to 3.4 percent, down from 3.5 percent last month and 3.6 percent in November. Partly as a result of population estimate revisions, the household survey found that the number of employed persons rose by 894,000 from that reported last month while the number of unemployed persons fell by 28,000.

The household survey found that the number of people in the civilian labor force rose by 866,000 in January while the adult population rose by 1,118,000. These changes caused the labor force participation rate to tick up 0.1 percentage point to 62.4 percent. It had been at 63.4 percent before the pandemic. Recovering that 1.0 percent decline in the labor force participation rate would bring 2.6 million more people into the workforce.

Multifamily employment higher

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 December.

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

construction employment and apartment operations employment history

Residential construction employment rises

Employment in residential building construction in January, usually with general contractors, was reported to be up 100 jobs from the revised level of the month before.  Employment in this category is now 934,100 jobs, up 3.5 percent year-over-year and 11.6 percent higher than its level in February 2020.

Employment in residential building trades, i.e. plumbers, electricians, etc., in January was reported to be up 5,400 jobs from December’s figure at 2,331,200 jobs. Employment in this category is up 3.7 percent year-over-year and is now 9.5 percent above its level in February 2020.

Total January employment in these two categories of residential construction jobs combined was up 0.2 percent from the level of the month before. Residential construction employment was 10.1 percent above its level in February 2020.

Apartment operations jobs rise overall

Employment for residential property managers in December was reported to be up by 2,000 jobs (0.4 percent) from its level for November to 507,200 jobs. Employment for residential property managers is up 3.4 percent year-over-year and is up from its February 2020 level by 5.4 percent.

Employment for lessors of residential buildings was reported to fall in December by 500 jobs to a level of 366,900 jobs. Employment in this category is up 2.3 percent year-over-year and is now 0.2 percent below its pre-pandemic level.

Total apartment operations employment in these two categories combined was reported to be up 0.2 percent from the level reported last month. It is now 3.0 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. It also provides trend lines for the growth in each of the categories of employment based on the period from January 2015 through February 2020.

relative growth in construction employment and apartment operations jobs

The chart shows that the growth in construction employment has effectively returned to its pre-pandemic trend. However, the growths in employment for the two classes of apartment operations jobs are still well below their earlier trends. This may indicate that apartment owners and operators have made improvements to their operations that now allow them to get by with fewer people.

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.