The real estate industry got 2 kernels of good news in the latest jobs numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics
The latest jobs data contains a couple kernels of good news for the real estate industry, pointing to less pressure on mortgage rates and an eventual boost in home demand.
For one thing, payrolls in real estate continue to come in stronger than in the U.S. at large, with 16,300 new jobs added on a seasonally adjusted basis in February across brokerage, property management and residential construction companies.
For another, the 311,000 jobs added last month in the broader economy were offset by more Americans seeking work, according to the latest numbers released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wage growth slowed as a result, a sign that the job market is improving “in the right way” as inflation continues to cool, National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement.
“It’s possible that by the year’s end, wage growth will be 4 percent while consumer price inflation runs at 3 percent, thereby boosting living standards,” Yun said in the statement. “More importantly for real estate, mortgage rates can now steadily trend downward.”
Friday’s closure of Silicon Valley Bank, with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) appointed as a receiver, could also help bring mortgage rates down. Investors seeking a safe place to park their money piled into 10-year Treasurys Friday, pushing down yields. Yields on 10-year Treasurys — a barometer for mortgage rates — were down 20 basis points in Friday afternoon trading.
Real estate payrolls — a category that includes the offices of brokers, agents and property management groups — held steady in February at just over 1.8 million employees. That’s a 3,900-position increase on a seasonally adjusted basis, roughly matching the monthly rate of job creation nationwide of 0.2 percent.
Bigger gains were seen in residential construction. The industry added 12,400 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in February, fueled by a big boost in specialty trade contractor jobs that outpaced the already high seasonal expectations for February. That’s a 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted increase, nearly double the national pace of job creation.
The numbers suggest that the previous month’s jobs numbers — where more than 500,000 positions were added nationwide and spurred worries that inflation might be tougher to tame than expected — was “a blip, rather than a trend,” according to Hannah Jones, an economic research analyst for Realtor.com.
“A still-hot economy would imply more aggressive Fed actions, which would increase the likelihood of a not-so-soft landing for the economy,” Jones said in a statement.
As the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates to fight inflation, Jones anticipates housing costs will remain elevated through the remainder of the year. But buyers are in a solid financial position to buy homes in the meantime, she said.
After briefly dipping below 6 percent in early February, mortgage rates have been climbing back toward 7 percent. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell delivered a pessimistic outlook on inflation to lawmakers this week, warning Congress that the Fed may have to hike rates faster and take them higher than previously thought.
After Powell’s testimony Wednesday, futures markets were pricing in a 78 percent chance Fed policymakers would accelerate their rate-hike campaign and bump the federal funds rate up by 50 basis points at their next meeting, which concludes on March 22.
But Friday’s jobs numbers have already shifted that thinking, with futures markets tracked by the CME FedWatch Tool now predicting only a 45 percent chance of a 50 basis-point hike.
“The report will not stop the Fed hiking in March, though it does lower the odds of a 50-basis point increase,” Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson said in a note to clients Friday.
That’s particularly the case if next week’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI) reports show inflation has cooled since January, Shepherdson said.
“That is our base case, so we’re sticking to our 25 basis point forecast,” Shepherdson said.
Looking farther down the road, Shepherdson said another rate hike in May “still seems likely, but we think the Fed is about to add extra hikes to its forecasts just at the point when the data will clearly tell them that further increases are unnecessary.”
Futures markets tracked by the CME FedWatch Tool on Friday were predicting that policymakers will bring their target rate for the federal funds rate up to no higher than 5.0 to 5.5 percent by the end of the year. On Wednesday, futures markets were pricing in expectations that the federal funds rate would be at 5.5 to 5.75 percent or higher by the end of the year — a full percentage point higher than today.