Real Estate Employment Shrinks

Written by: Steve Cook   Mon, October 10, 2011 Beyond Today's News

The real estate sector has lost 13,100 jobs since May, nearly reaching the employment level last year when sales suddenly crashed following the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit.

Seasonally adjusted September figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show show that real estate employment is lower than it has been since February as brokerages and support services reduce operating costs earlier than usual.

Normally the BLS real estate employment data, which is seasonally adjusted, does not fluctuate greatly with the beginning or end of the traditional home buying season.  The last two years are an exception as brokers and companies that provided services to brokerages reduce operating costs by reducing full-time and part-time staff.

The BLS data may not tell the whole story of what’s going on with real estate employment.  It is based on payrolls, however, eight out of 10 Realtors work as independent contractors for their firms, according to the National Association of Realtors.  Their income and business activity is more difficult to track.

Real estate employment hit a high of 1,504,700 in May 2007.  Currently real estate employment, which is largely residential sales and does not include rental or leasing, is 1,395,900, according to the BLS.

Real estate broker and agent income also has declined in recent years.  The most recent survey by the National Association of Realtors found that the median income for Realtors declined 4.5 percent to $34,100 last year, which followed a 3 percent decline in 2009. Realtors licensed as brokers earned a median of $48,700 in 2010, while sales agents earned $24,900.  The downturn began in 2008 when median gross income of Realtors fell 14 percent from $42,600 in 2007 to $36,700.

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