May was a strong hiring month for the U.S. as a whole. But in a down market, real estate didn’t quite keep pace, according to new jobs data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Real estate companies continued to ramp up their hiring rates in May, but at a pace that lagged the nation’s surprisingly robust rate of payroll growth overall.

The offices of real estate brokers, agents and property managers added 3,900 jobs from April to May, or 1,200 on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a 0.1 percent monthly increase in brokerage and property manager payrolls on a month when the U.S. economy added 339,000 seasonally adjusted jobs — a 0.2 percent increase.

Over the past year, brokerage and property manager offices have mostly kept pace with U.S. job growth, despite a down market in terms of transactions and home prices. These real estate employer payrolls are up 2.3 percent year over year, compared to 2.7 percent year-over-year growth for the nation at large.

“Today’s jobs report reflected another month of strong employment activity in May,” Economic Data Analyst Hannah Jones said in a statement. “This month’s employment gains fell in line with the previous six months’ level.”

Meanwhile, residential construction companies also continued to forge ahead with hiring, but at a more cautious pace of growth. Homebuilders and residential trade contractors added 50,900 jobs in the month of May, a number the agency considers more like a 2,500-job increase after accounting for normal seasonal hiring patterns. That’s a less than 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted increase from April.

This continues a yearlong period for residential construction where payrolls have not shrank, but neither have they risen at nearly the rate of payrolls in other industries. Compared to the national rate of payroll growth of 2.7 percent over the past 12 months, residential construction employers grew their payrolls year-over-year by 1.2 percent.

“The continued strength is partially due to the years-long struggle that builders have had attracting and retaining skilled construction workers, making them less likely to part with skilled workers, even in a weaker housing market,” First American Economist Ksenia Potapov said in a statement.

Jones added that the strong employment data nationwide should bode well for housing demand, even as waning home affordability continues to hamper many buyers.

“The continued strength of the labor market, improved consumer confidence, and near-negative home price growth suggests a more balanced future for the housing market,” Jones said. “Though the possibility of another rate hike introduces the possibility of higher mortgage rates, reining in inflation will ultimately serve to bring down mortgage rates and introduce sought-after stability to the market.”

Email Daniel Houston

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