Brokers, agents and homebuilders tallied a solid hiring month amid the holiday season even as the downturn in real estate transactions continued, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Jobs levels held steady last month at real estate offices as well as in residential construction amid a surprisingly positive jobs report.

Employers in real estate — a category that includes offices of brokers, agents and property managers — added 4,000 jobs in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to a report released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Meanwhile, homebuilders and residential construction contractors shed fewer jobs than usual for this time of year. 

December is historically a down month for construction hiring, and that was reflected in a raw reduction of 34,500 jobs by homebuilders and residential trade contractors. But after considering the normal seasonal expectations for this time of year, the bureau considers this a combined 9,500-job increase in these two residential construction categories.

The growth in real estate jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis outpaced the nation as a whole, even amid a surprisingly positive hiring month. U.S. employers last month added a seasonally adjusted 223,000 to non-farm payrolls, a 0.1 percent increase from November to December.

Financial markets opened higher Friday on the news, with the S&P 500 index of large American companies jumping by about half a percentage point in early trading.

“Today’s report will not lead the Fed to quickly change course with respect to the path of interest rates, and we expect a 25-basis-point hike at the next meeting,” Mortgage Bankers Association Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni said in a statement provided to Inman. “Mortgage rates are off their highs from last year and we expect them to trend down over the course of 2023.”

But perhaps an even bigger surprise was the strong showing in real estate hiring, an industry where home transactions have been falling for months and sales of new homes have been increasingly scarce.

Seasonally adjusted payrolls rose twice as quickly last month in the real estate category that includes brokerages, and three times as quickly in the residential construction categories.

“Although there are an increasing number of high-profile layoffs, particularly in the technology sector and also in the mortgage industry, hiring in other sectors of the economy are more than offsetting these on net,” Fratantoni said in the statement.

But other industries adjacent to real estate took a hit to their payrolls in December. Furniture stores held roughly steady in employment, but building material and garden supply stores cut 3,600 more jobs than expected for the holiday season.

Email Daniel Houston

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