As we step into a new year, understanding the intricacies of the labor market is pivotal for grasping broader economic trends. In this blog post, we dissect the latest job additions, delve into labor shortages, explore wage growth dynamics, and examine the potential impact on commercial real estate in the year ahead.
Job Additions Reflect a Changing Landscape
The concluding month of the year saw employers add 216,000 positions, a noteworthy figure, yet falling short of the 2023 monthly average. Despite sustaining strength in hiring, there are indications that the labor market is cooling. Job creation was prominent in sectors such as government, health care, social assistance, and construction. However, transportation and warehousing witnessed a decline, signaling softening labor demand in more cyclical industries. The government and in-recovery sectors accounted for approximately 151,000 positions.
Navigating Labor Shortages: Challenges in Key Sectors
Labor shortages persist in crucial sectors, with over 1 million job openings in leisure and hospitality and health care. The leisure and hospitality sector, still 1 percent below its pre-COVID high, faces challenges in maintaining staff levels. In December, only 40,000 personnel were hired, less than half the average gain observed in 2022. A similar trend is seen in the health care sector, with over 1.7 million job openings but only a modest addition of 38,000 jobs in December. These shortages may impact the growth aspirations of hotels and restaurants in 2024.
Muted Growth in Office-Using Sectors
Traditional office-using sectors, including professional, business, and financial services, experienced limited job additions in December, reflecting a larger trend throughout 2023. With only 110,000 positions added in this sector for the entire year, there's a notable decrease from the robust growth observed in 2021 and 2022. The professional, scientific, and technical subset was the sole sector to record meaningful job growth, adding 25,000 roles. Meanwhile, employment in temporary help services continued to trend downward, serving as an early indicator of a cooling labor market.
Wage Growth Under the Lens
Wage growth, a key metric in gauging economic health, saw average hourly earnings rise by 0.4 percent in December, reaching $34.27. While this marks a 4.1 percent increase over the past 12 months, it reflects a steady easing compared to the preceding three years. The annual increase in 2023 aligns with the gain observed in 2018, signaling a return to the 3 percent range. For commercial real estate operators, this softening in wage pressure may offer some relief in operational costs.
The Federal Reserve's Outlook and Its Implications
In its December 2023 meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee hinted at potential interest rate cuts in 2024, emphasizing a data-informed decision-making approach. If implemented, these cuts could lower borrowing costs, positively impacting commercial real estate transactions and alleviating financial burdens for businesses. However, continued strength in job and wage growth could influence the Fed to either delay or reduce the number of cuts in the coming year. As we navigate through 2024, close scrutiny of workforce data remains crucial for stakeholders in the commercial real estate sector.
The shifting dynamics in job additions, labor shortages, wage growth, and the Federal Reserve's outlook paint a dynamic picture for the year ahead. Navigating these trends will be essential for businesses, investors, and professionals in the commercial real estate sector to make informed decisions and adapt to the evolving economic landscape. Stay tuned for regular updates as we track these developments throughout the year.