Job Openings Hold Steady, Office Attendance Sees Holiday Drop, Mortgage Applications Hit 26-Year Low
Job Openings Hold Steady
Despite a wave of layoffs and corporate space cutbacks hitting industries including technology and media, the nation overall has job openings still going unfilled, according to the latest Labor Department numbers.
Openings at the end of November were little changed from the prior month and totaled 10.5 million, the government reported Wednesday. November’s total of 6.1 million hires and 5.9 million separations, including layoffs and resignations, were also essentially unchanged from month-earlier and year-earlier levels.
This consistency generally reflects a job market that remains historically strong despite warnings by business leaders and economists of a pending recession. Analysts and corporate real estate planners will be watching in coming days for whether the national December unemployment rate moves from its 3.7% level of the prior two months.
The latest Labor Department data showed industries with the most job openings at the end of November included education and health services at approximately 2.1 million, trade and transportation at 1.6 million, and leisure and hospitality at 1.5 million. Retail accounted for the bulk of the openings in the trade category at 887,000.
The same industries generally led for November hirings and separations.
Office Attendance Sees Holiday Drop
Office use took a predictable tumble during the holiday season, with major cities averaging 21.4% attendance for week ended Dec. 28, according to the latest weekly tracking from security technology firm Kastle Systems.
The firm’s “Back to Work Barometer” tracks 10 major cities for their office attendance as a percentage of pre-pandemic levels, using anonymous keycard data from clients’ office properties. The latest number was well down from the average 48.2% for the week ended Dec. 14 and 40.8% for the week ended Dec. 21.
Numbers before mid-December had generally remained close to the pandemic peak of 49% reached in mid-October, though most cities in the barometer have yet to reach 50% of pre-pandemic attendance. The exceptions in most weeks have included three Texas cities consistently taking the three top spots for office use.
Cities leading the latest Kastle data included Houston at 27.9% and Dallas at 26.8%, with Los Angeles’ 25% narrowly beating out the normally No. 1 Austin, Texas, at 24.8%.
Mortgage Applications Hit 26-Year Low
Mortgage applications continued a generally downward trend in the face of high interest rates, declining 13.2% from two weeks earlier for the week ended Dec. 30 and hitting lows not seen in 26 years, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday.
“The end of the year is typically a slower time for the housing market, and with mortgage rates still well above 6% and the threat of a recession looming, mortgage applications continued to decline over the past two weeks to the lowest level since 1996,” Joel Kan, the trade group’s deputy chief economist, said in a statement.
The bankers group said the latest application volume numbers, adjusted to account for the holiday season, showed refinancings down 16.3% from two weeks earlier and declining 87% from the comparable week of 2021. Purchase applications dropped 12.2% from two weeks earlier and were down 42% from year-earlier levels.
“Purchase applications have been impacted by slowing home sales in both new and existing segments of the market,” Kan said. “Even as home price growth slows in many parts of the country, elevated mortgage rates continue to put a strain on affordability and are keeping prospective homebuyers out of the market.”
Mortgage trends affect multifamily demand in many regions by keeping prospective buyers in the rental pool as they wait for buying conditions to improve.