The start of spring usually marks more brokerage transactions and ramped-up construction schedules. But payroll growth was weaker in March, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

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On a month when the real estate industry typically reports fat payrolls — and when employers nationwide continued to add jobs at a quick pace — real estate hiring came in unexpectedly weak.

Real estate employers — a category that includes the offices of agents, brokers and property managers — trimmed 4,300 jobs from their payrolls in March, according to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a 2,600-job reduction after accounting for normal seasonal patterns, or a 0.1 percent decline from February.

These numbers came amid a report that the broader economy added 236,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, a 0.2 percent monthly increase.

“These trends and recent data showing fewer job openings and increases in initial claims for unemployment insurance paint a picture of a job market that is still quite strong but beginning to flag, lagging other indicators of a slowing economic activity and tightening credit,” Mortgage Bankers Association Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni said in a statement.

The relative weakness in real estate hiring wasn’t limited only to brokers’ offices. 

In residential construction, payrolls were stagnant in March, a month when construction hiring typically ramps up. 

Between homebuilders and residential contractors, real estate construction added a mere 3,400 actual jobs from February to March. That’ll go down as a 7,000-job loss in the government’s count, after accounting for normal trends this time a year.

Other businesses adjacent to real estate also significantly underperformed seasonal expectations for this time of year.

A group of retailers that includes furniture stores, home furnishing stores and building and garden supply stores added 67,000 jobs in March — a number that fell 9,200 jobs short of the typical early spring buildup in those sectors.

These numbers were gathered before uncertainty took hold of the banking industry following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank last month. 

“Slowing wage growth should allow inflation in the services to slow over time,” Fratantoni said in the statement. “MBA expects that the Federal Reserve has reached the peak for this rate cycle, and slowing job growth supports that call, but the most important data points will be those for inflation. If inflation does not show signs of also slowing, the Fed may move ahead with one last rate hike.”

Email Daniel Houston

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