Despite the staggering loss of 701,000 jobs in March reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and record-high unemployment claims of 6.6 million reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, there were a few bright spots for the real estate and homebuilding industries last month.
The final week of March saw unemployment claims nearly double from the 3.34 million in the previous week. Roughly two-thirds of the losses came from the leisure and hospitality sectors, particularly restaurants and bars, according to the BLS report. “Notable employment declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction,” the report noted.
Those lost construction jobs were primarily from commercial real estate projects, according to National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Residential home construction jobs were steady and higher by 27,000 from a year ago for actual building construction and higher by 44,000 among general contractors,” Yun said in a press release. “We had a housing shortage before going into the crisis and homebuilders were gearing up to relieve the inventory tightness.”
Keller Williams Chief Economist Ruben Gonzalez said the most important thing to help the real estate industry and overall economy is to “keep working on providing adequate disaster relief aid to those individuals and businesses whose income is being lost due to the shutdown necessary to fight the spread of COVID-19.”
“Making sure that these individuals continue to have income is going to prevent unemployment from spilling into industries that could otherwise continue to operate, and help ensure that a strong recovery is possible after the pandemic has come to an end,” Gonzalez said in a written statement.
He added that it is vital to continue to keep people in their homes and ensure that they are not penalized for the pandemics’s impact on the economy. Providing aid to those who have lost their jobs also will help stave off the prospect of buyers “having to deplete their savings and delaying home purchases, potentially for years.”
Yun said job losses are expected to be even higher in April, but added that the unemployed are not at fault and the enhanced unemployment checks of up to $1,200 will help “make up a good portion of lost income.”
Helping to keep the unemployed afloat during the crisis will mean that spending power is ready to be deployed once the pandemic comes to an end.
First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming called the spike in job losses “the Great Recession for the services industry,” but added that construction was not immune, noting the 4,500 lost jobs in homebuilding and remodeling.
“This report doesn’t cover the most recent weeks and understates the current reality,” he said in a statement. “This recession is unique in the speed of its development and that it is driven by the service sector, instead of business investment.”