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Jobs Making Slow Comeback Amid Pandemic, Construction Employment Sorely Needed
By RISMedia Staff
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released a jobs report for July, stating nonfarm payroll employment increased by 1.8 million for the month, while unemployment fell to 10.2 percent.
 
In July, the number of unemployed persons decreased by 1.4 million to 16.3 million, and while the last three months posted declines, this number is still up by 10.6 million since February. Temporary layoffs decreased by 1.3 million in July to 9.2 million—about half of April's level.
 
Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector increased by 592,000 in July, while the food services and drinking sector saw an increase of 502,000 in employment. Retail trade saw the addition of 258,000 jobs in July, and jobs in professional and business services increased by 170,000 in July—still 1.6 million below the February level.
 
According to the report, financial activities added 21,000 jobs in July, primarily in real estate and rental and leasing (15,000-plus). Construction employment stayed relatively flat (20,000-plus) after job gains of 619,000 in May and June combined. Employment in the industry is 444,000 below the February level.
 
Here's what the industry is saying:

"Jobs are coming back, with 1.8 million net new additions in July, bringing the total to 9.3 million over the past three months as the economy has steadily reopened. This is far from normal, as another 13 million jobs are needed just to get us back to pre-pandemic employment levels. The unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent, and it is lower in states that reopened earlier: for example, 7.6 percent in Georgia versus 15.7 percent in New York. But coronavirus infection rates are rising more steeply in more re-opened states, thereby illustrating the tough tradeoffs in the decision between livelihood versus lives, and about which states will be most hurt (temporarily) during the impasse in new Congressional stimulus negotiations.

"With housing shortages across the country, construction jobs need to ramp up. My estimate is that 3.5 million residential construction and general contractor jobs are needed to fully supply the market with new inventory. As of July, there were 2.8 million employed in the sector. The average weekly earnings in construction are at $1,154, much higher than the $348 per week in the leisure and hospitality sector that took the brunt of job losses. States should consider retraining workers to go into industries where the pay is higher and jobs are critically needed." — Dr. Lawrence Yun, National Association of REALTORS® Chief Economist
 
"The pace of job growth slowed in July, but the gains over the past three months represent an impressive rebound during the ongoing economic challenges brought forth by the pandemic. Although 9.2 million people remain temporarily unemployed, another 1.3 million workers have been called back to work, and the number of permanent layoffs remained steady at 2.9 million. The unemployment rate declined in July, but at 10.2 percent, this is still higher than the peak during the Great Recession. Broader measures of underemployment—such as the U6—have fallen even faster, but remain high at 16.5 percent of workers either unemployed or underemployed.

"MBA's Weekly Application Survey continues to show robust demand for home sales, and record-low mortgage rates are fueling an ongoing refinance wave. Today's report should continue to support both: the return of jobs will keep housing demand strong, and the high level of unemployment ensures that the Federal Reserve will keep rates at zero—meaning mortgage rates will stay low for an extended period of time." — Mike Fratantoni, SVP & Chief Economist, Mortgage Bankers Association

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