What Today's Jobs Report Says About the Housing Market
Any jump in jobs is good for housing, and October's gain of 171,000 is no different.
One of the biggest barriers to entry for potential home buyers, new and move-up, has been uncertainty in employment. So this positive report can only add to rising consumer confidence and wealth.
(Read more: Jobs Report Shows Some Gains.)
When you dig down into the numbers, however, you can see where the numbers are not quite as rosy as some would hope for both home buyers and builders.
While overall construction added 17,000 jobs in October, residential-building construction employment fell by 2,000. Residential specialty contractor jobs increased by 6,700, which speaks to the real root of today's housing recovery.
All-cash investors are leading the gains; they buy distressed properties and then repair and remodel them to turn them into rentals. It's no wonder remodelers are seeing greater gains than the home builders.
An industry index of remodeling finally climbed into the positive in October, making a significant jump to its highest level since the end of 2005. Both current conditions and future expectations saw gains on the National Association of Home Builders' remodeling index (RMI). The builders claim it is not just investors, but a result of rising home equity.
"The strength of the RMI, especially in owner-occupied properties, shows that home owners are investing in remodels as home prices stabilize," said NAHB Remodelers Chairman George Moore Jr., a remodeler from Elm Grove, La. "As owners become more confident that investments in housing will hold their value, they are beginning to undertake projects to improve their comfort that they had been putting off."
While any construction is better than no construction, housing analysts focus more on home building than remodeling, as the nation's home builders contribute more to the overall economy, with more jobs and materials. Home builders have ramped up production dramatically, as they rise from the ashes of the housing bust.
Housing starts and permits are up significantly from the bottom, and the public builders are all reporting at least double-digit gains in new orders.
They still, however, need to see more demand from their historically strong cohort, the first-time home buyer. Those younger Americans are seeing employment gains, but are still proportionally harder-hit than the rest of the work force.
(Read More: Home Prices Rise, but Analysts See Pressure Ahead)
"Among 25-34 year-olds, the prime age group for housing demand, 75.1 percent were employed in October, up from 74.9 percent in September and from 73.6 percent in October 2011,"" notes Jed Kolko of Trulia.com, a real estate sales and information website. "For this age group, the unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in October, down from 9.7 percent one year ago – an even bigger drop than for the economy overall. Labor force participation increased for this key group."
The downside in October's jobs report, however is that job growth in what Kolko calls "clobbered metros" was just 0.5 percent (annualized rate) through September – behind the national average of 1.6 percent for the same period. (These figures are annualized 3-month growth rates to September, the latest data released for metros.) Kolko defines clobbered metros as the areas with the biggest price declines during the bust and the highest vacancy rates now: "Job growth there is especially important for housing demand," he notes.
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