As I stood outside the Labor Department this morning, fighting to speak through the freezing temps, and cursing the reporter who usually covers that beat but who is busy freezing himself in New Hampshire today, I couldn’t help but think that the numbers played out before me had to be wrong. I know, I know, how can a government report be wrong??
The trouble is in my neck of the woods: real estate. According to the December Jobs report, the real estate sector added 5,400 jobs in the month and is even above the number for December of 2006. How can that be, when real estate agents are fleeing the business? According to the National Association of Realtors, membership has dropped just 2 percent from its peak in August of 2007, but that’s membership only.
I heard from the NAR’s chief economist earlier this week that a quarter of all real estate agents in California didn’t even make a sale in 2007, so I’m guessing a lot of those NAR members aren’t actually working.
I called the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and they say that number doesn’t even include mortgage brokers; they fall under Financial Services. I was thinking that maybe the surge was all that new staff needed to help folks refinance, but no. I emailed David Lereah, who used to work for the NAR but went corporate last year. All he could surmise was it might be real estate jobs related to foreclosed properties.