Real Estate Companies Struggle to Hire as Housing Market Stalls

The real estate industry added tens of thousands of new jobs in January but the sector still had more openings than workers available to fill those roles, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed on Wednesday, suggesting that companies may be finding it a challenge to recruit.

The real estate, rental and leasing sector had 178,000 job openings in January. The industry managed to hire 84,000 people and 75,000 others experienced separation—a term that includes workers who quit, were laid off or stopped working involuntarily, BLS figures revealed.

The struggle to fill job openings in the real estate business is part of a larger trend in the U.S. labor market. With a strong economy and resilient yet elevated interest rates that have pushed up borrowing costs for everything, including business investment, there are more jobs than there are workers to fill them. Overall, in January, there were nearly 9 million positions available for workers, with 5.7 million employees hired, and separations totaled 5.3 million.

It is a signal of a robust labor market, economists say.

“The January Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary report is consistent with a labor market that is still quite strong,” Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said in a note shared with Newsweek. “The ratio of job openings to unemployed workers increased, pointing to stubborn excess demand for labor.”

real estate
Manhattan is pictured on July 24, 2018, in New York City. The real estate market is struggling to fill open positions, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed on Wednesday.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The housing market is struggling amid elevated mortgage rates and high prices that have made buying a home beyond the reach of a huge chunk of Americans. Interest on home loans now hovers above 7 percent, while the median listing price of a home is at $409,500, higher than a year ago. Sales of new homes ticked up slightly, by 1.5 percent, in January.

But another challenge facing the housing market appears to be a lack of enough available workers in the real estate sector, just like in the overall economy.

Counselors of Real Estate, a global consortium of credentialed real estate professionals, found that labor shortage is a key issue affecting the business. It reported that 88 percent of contractors say they are having “moderate to high levels of difficulty finding workers and 35 [percent] have turned down work due to labor shortages.”

From the perspective of workers, the data suggests that those looking for jobs in the real estate industry may find it easier to get hired. The unemployment rate in the sector is at 3 percent, lower than the overall figure of 3.7 percent, according to BLS data.