California’s real estate industry – fueled by low mortgage rates, a home buying spree and a construction surge – has almost returned to pre-pandemic employment levels.
When my trusty spreadsheet looked at the state’s job data, 15 real estate-related categories had a total of 2.92 million workers in April – down just 43,500 from February 2020, just before COVID-19 cools the economy.
This means that statewide real estate jobs are at 99%, just below late winter 2020 employment levels. Note that many real estate workers are independent contractors and that their jobs are not counted in official employment figures.
Compare that performance to how all of the other California bosses have managed their staff. The 13.3 million jobs in all other industries statewide fell 1.3 million in 14 months. That puts the rest of California at 91% of employment before the pandemic.
Real estate has been so strong that three of its job categories have more workers than in February 2020. All of them are construction-related fields: architecture / engineering, building construction, and building supply stores.
Outside of real estate, California industries with the top number of jobs before the pandemic include transportation and warehousing, family services, electronics manufacturing, and grocery stores.
The hardest hit real estate industry was leasing, reflecting the challenges homeowners faced during the pandemic. Still, its workforce is at 88% of the pre-virus level – a far cry from the weak rebound of California tourism, leisure and entertainment businesses with a workforce of two-thirds as of February 2020.
Clearly, real estate has played a significant role in keeping the state’s economy afloat as it struggles to tame the killer virus. It will certainly be fascinating to see how real estate behaves after the economy fully reopens after June 15th. One potential problem: A stronger national economy could raise interest rates and change enthusiasm for real estate investing.
Here is how the 15 real estate job niches have behaved since February 2020: share of the number of previous jobs, the current workforce and the variation over 14 months (ranked in order of percentage of recovery) …
Real estate leasing: 88% February 2020 – its 60,200 employees in April are down from 7,900 in 14 months.
Furniture manufacturing: 89% – 29,000 workers, down from 3,600.
Furniture / furnishing stores: 89% – 46,700 workers, down from 5,600.
Real estate brokerage: 92% – 50,400 workers, down from 4,200.
Building services: 95% – 239,400 workers, down from 13,900.
Building materials wholesalers: 96% – 23,100 workers, down from 1,000.
Property management: 97% – 109,600 workers, down from 3,200.
Manufacture of wood products: 98% – 25,500 workers, down from 600.
Specialized contractors: 98% – 581,000 workers, down from 11,800.
Heavy construction: 98% – 90,500 workers, down from 1,500.
Construction: 99% – 882,200 workers, down from 9,700.
Ready: 100% – 242,200 workers, down from 900.
Architectural engineering: 101% – 189,000 workers, up 1,200.
Building construction : 102% – 210,700 workers, up from 3,600.
Building material stores: 113% – 138,600 workers, up from 15,600.
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be contacted at [email protected]