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CRE Hiring A Mixed Bag As Industry Retrenches

When it comes to hiring, the commercial real estate industry is experiencing a mixed bag, with some sectors suffering and others on the upswing.

CRE Hiring A Mixed Bag As Industry Retrenches

Job posting data nationwide on employment search engine Indeed.com has found that active job listings in hospitality/tourism and banking/finance have dropped from the middle of April last year to mid-April this year by 64% and 40%, respectively.

Active job postings are a good indicator of activity in the current labor landscape. 

The Indeed report found that loading and stocking job postings that fill many industrial warehouses are also slowing. Those positions are growing 34% slower than at the same point last year, according to Indeed Chief Economist Jed Kolko

The trend in overall job postings is 33.7% lower than in 2019 and 46%, as of April 16, Kolko said.  

Since the pandemic hit in March, many businesses have either closed, are operating with limited hours or have workers working remotely. More than 30 million people have been furloughed or laid off. In April, the U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs

The commercial real estate industry is not immune to the current crisis. Retail and hospitality has been decimated, the Indeed report found. Collecting rent from tenants is going to be an ongoing issue for property landlords across the board, and with so much uncertainty in the economy, no one knows what is going to happen next.   

"I feel terrible for the hospitality industry and some of the other industries that have been hit hard by this," Blanton Turner Chief Problem Solver and Institute of Real Estate Management Secretary Treasurer Barry Blanton said.

"People are working remotely. I'm hearing that in some cases, some people have cut back hours," he said. "Everyone is trying to figure out how to prepare to recover and how we are going to reopen buildings and what the new normal will be."

The data highlights one way that U.S. commercial real estate companies are grappling with this pandemic. As concern over the coronavirus grew, companies began to halt job postings and hiring.

While most companies have put a hold on new hires, there are some looking for the right talent to help them navigate through a down market. But for many others, this year has been a confluence of uncontrollable outside factors, including an election year, a pandemic and a burgeoning recession.

One Eleven Advisors Managing Director Bernie Ocampo
One Eleven Advisors Managing Director Bernie Ocampo

Recruiters told Bisnow that they have noticed a drop in executive searches and expect more to come. 

Bernie Ocampo, a managing director at Chicago-based real estate consulting firm One Eleven Advisors, said that as the coronavirus pandemic continues, the number of permanent career opportunities are likely to drop. Expect many contract roles to pop up, said Ocampo, who heads One Eleven’s executive search team.

“This is my fourth downturn,” Ocampo said. “I’ve seen this movie before. Except this is a game changer. Everyone in the industry is putting a pause on things. However, there are roles that remain.”

Ocampo said given the new remote work environment and employees working from home, companies will seek information technology personnel, cybersecurity and proptech experts.

"Those roles will be elevated," he said.

Additionally, distressed investments, asset management, accounting and property management will be in greater demand, Ocampo said.

“Assets don’t go anywhere,” Ocampo said. “You can have it change hands, but someone still needs to manage that property. That is a bread-and-butter role.”

A separate data set provided to Bisnow by Indeed shows that the top real estate roles companies are looking to fill are agents, leasing consultants, property managers, occupancy specialists and assistant property managers. Only 2.3% of current job listings are looking for commercial real estate agents, the Indeed data shows.  

RETS Associates principal Jana Turner said there has been a lag as companies have delayed searches. But she said she recently filled four searches in 10 business days for one client. 

RETS Associates Principal Jana Turner
RETS Associates principal Jana Turner

Turner said companies are better prepared to weather the coronavirus crisis than during the Great Recession.

"In the last recession, hiring was slow," she said. "Here, companies have not canceled searches. Many are just on hold."

At the moment, companies in the industrial and multifamily sectors are driving the hiring, she said.

"Initially, I think everyone is viewing this as a short-term issue, whereas I think the Great Recession was more long-term," Turner said, adding that the government's Paycheck Protection Program has helped keep small companies from furloughing employees. "Industrial is just on fire and there is such a huge demand for logistic. Retail will definitely be getting hurt but there are a lot of deals out there."

Turner said while companies have hit the pause button, a lot of employees are also rethinking their career. 

"Working from home and having some reflective time has got people thinking about where their career is at," she said.

Ocampo said if the pandemic continues and employees do get laid off, CRE professionals should not be afraid to take on contractor or consulting roles. Commercial real estate is still a relationship business, Ocampo said.

"Relationship-oriented networking and being entrepreneurial is going to be more important," Ocampo said. "Those are things that resonate with CRE people. Be flexible and be willing to pinch hit. Those are good ways to add value."

For Blanton, whose Seattle-based company employs 200 workers and oversees 5,200 multifamily units and 1,800 beds of student housing, his company has 23 active job listings for property managers, accountants, human resource professionals, and leasing and maintenance staff.

Property managers are in hot demand, Blanton said, adding that he is preparing for the large number of multifamily developments that will soon hit the market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics project a 7% growth rate for property managers from 2018-2028. 

"The built-in environment still needs to get managed," Blanton said. "There are a lot of developments in Seattle that are in progress and will continue and will need to be leased up. We've been competing with the world at large for talent. We have jobs. We are pretty certain we will be needed in the foreseeable future."