Job Growth Slowing Down

In March, overall U.S. employment growth wasn't as robust as expected, and the latest employment stats from the states and D.C.—which are also March numbers—reflect a similar slowdown, though not a job market that's coming to a sudden halt.

In March, overall U.S. employment growth wasn’t as robust as expected, and the latest employment stats from the states and D.C.—which are also March numbers—reflect a similar slowdown, though not a job market that’s coming to a sudden halt. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday, 23 states and D.C. enjoyed unemployment rate decreases compared with February, 12 states suffered increases, and 15 states had no change. A mixed picture, but month-by-month isn’t the smoothest metric. So by contrast, 46 states and D.C. still experienced unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, while only three states had increases, and one state had no change.

Thus most states are still holding their own when it comes to employment growth, a critical factor in keeping real estate markets healthy. The BLS will release employment figures for metro areas late this month, which are even more indicative of whether real estate markets are benefitting from job growth or not, since most real estate markets aren’t statewide, but rather metro-focused.

Still, it’s worth noting a few statewide trends in employment. For instance, the golden state of job creation of the early 2010s, North Dakota, actually saw a year-over-year increase in its unemployment rate in March, from 2.7 percent to 3.1 percent. That hasn’t created a vast pool of unemployment for the state, but it does point to the impact of energy prices on the state, which might drive unemployment up even more. Employment numbers for larger real estate markets that happen to be energy intensive, such as Houston, will shed more light on the situation.

Another piece of the healthy growth puzzle is wage growth, and the BLS has new numbers about that as well. Turns out workers are slowly—very slowly—clawing their way to increases that are a little ahead of the nation’s meager rate of inflation. The BLS said on Tuesday that the median weekly earnings of the country’s 107.2 million full-time wage and salary workers were $808 in the first quarter of 2015. That’s 1.5 percent higher than a year earlier, compared with a decline of 0.1 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers over the same period.