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DFW Employment Market Is A Mixed Bag Where Property Management Is King

The Dallas-Fort Worth commercial real estate employment market is unpredictable and somewhat contradictory in the wake of the coronavirus, corporate recruiters say. 

While some employees felt the blow of furloughs or layoffs in the past four months, the DFW CRE market is not necessarily shedding jobs at the rapid pace many expected when the coronavirus first hit in March. 

DFW Employment Market Is A Mixed Bag Where Property Management Is King

"I don’t think we have seen the number of layoffs that we saw back in 2008 and 2009," DFW-based recruiting firm Gillham, Golbeck & Associates President Rick Gillham said.

It helps that the market started from a position of strength for job seekers — before the pandemic, employers were having trouble filling local CRE positions with qualified talent. 

Even still, the CRE community is not immune to the impact of coronavirus-related job cuts as a whole. National numbers from employment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas show real estate had 9,664 layoffs year-to-date in 2020, compared to 998 job cuts during the same time period in 2019. 

CRE professionals in the local DFW market appear to be hanging on to their positions in the aggregate even though it's with a tighter grip these days, according to Gillham, Golbeck & Associates recruiters. 

"We've heard a new term this go-around called 'furlough,' where people are either back at work half time or they are waiting to go back full time," Gillham said. 

Many CRE companies presumed the downturn would create a market where employers could field hundreds of qualified job applicants and offer reduced salaries, but that's just not the case, Gillham, Golbeck & Associates recruiter and Vice President Paige Palmer said. 

"The only sector where we have seen significant layoffs is in the hospitality side of the business, and we’ve also seen some layoffs in multifamily development, specifically with the transactional positions," Palmer said. "But surprisingly, not a large number of layoffs. The positions that are available are very difficult to fill right now because no one wants to make a move.”

Recruiting firm The Liberty Group noticed a similar trend. 

"The candidates today are less willing to make a move," The Liberty Group President Ken Bohan said. "They are giving a second thought to a move, and that goes back to [the old saying] last hired, first fired. So, I think some candidates are particularly cautious about making a change to a new opportunity right now."

Overall, DFW recruiters have noticed a downward slide in demand for transactional and brokerage service positions, but anyone in operations remains in demand, particularly property management professionals. 

Even though buildings are operating at 20% to 30% occupancy levels in some cases, property managers are still required to deal with growing on-site demands, from sanitation to overall building health and safety, Palmer said. 

"They have been in crisis mode for four months now, and that really does shine a light on property management," she said. "The property managers that we talked to said they are working twice as hard."

The nature of recruiting also changed overnight with more recruited DFW talent asking to work from home during the interview process, and for many, this is not a negotiable benefit. 

"I noticed we don't get too far into a conversation with a potential candidate before they are asking us if they can work remotely," Gillham said. "Part of that is they may have kids at home and don't have anywhere else to take them, and part of that just may be the fear factor of not wanting to be out and taking a chance on getting the virus."

Either way, hiring CRE companies are at risk of losing the best of the best in CRE recruiting if they don't get their work-from-home policies updated. 

"It's very competitive for employers to attract top talent," Palmer said. "They have to be very creative in terms of what they are offering employees."