CRE Job And Hiring Outlook: 2019-2022
For over 15 years, SelectLeaders has produced a job barometer for the commercial real estate industry to illustrate the performance of the job market and how it is shaped by external events.
SelectLeaders lists job postings from 25,000 active CRE employers, which are used by 315,000 job seekers across all major CRE subsectors. Since 2019, SelectLeaders has partnered with Bisnow to leverage 14 years of categorized CRE data, gaining deeper insight into the CRE climate and how trends shape hiring decisions across industries.
“We have our standard reporting that allows us to see various market trends through various time frames but we wanted to take the time to dive deeper,” SelectLeaders Technical Product Development Lead Raymond Miranda said. “Our research team took over a week to analyze hundreds of data points that we capture on our job board. Our goal was to make sure that we cross-referenced our findings so that we could paint an accurate picture of the market last year.”
Between 2019 and Q2 2022, SelectLeaders aggregated data from CRE jobs across its major subsectors. The research team compiled information on the number of jobs posted, applications per job, salary ranges and whether companies have gone hybrid, remote or in-office and assessed how hiring across the subsectors has changed within this time frame.
While the data offers tremendous insight into the state of the CRE job market, every individual company’s experience is different. To learn more about those experiences, the team conducted outside research and sought the perspectives of CRE experts to learn how their experiences align — or deviate — from the findings.
Overall, CRE hiring recovered steadily during the pandemic. For a majority of sectors, while the number of job postings and applications dipped in 2020, activity bounced back in 2021. SelectLeaders Head of Customer Success Jermaine Frazier-Collins said these findings are in line with what has occurred with the job market and how many employers have responded to changes.
The overall CRE job market remained strong in the first half of 2022; however, the industry is bracing for what the rest of 2022 may bring, given the economic and political climate. Frazier-Collins said that one looming question is whether a recession will occur. This can impact how candidates view the hiring process and in turn reflect hiring trends.
“The SelectLeaders site is very reflective of what’s happening in the market, as it can show what the candidate’s sentiment is as well as what employers are fearful of, which we can gauge by the number of postings on our site,” Frazier-Collins said. “This includes talks of recession as well.”
Read on to see the report’s findings, as well as insights from CRE experts about what is happening on the ground.
Job Barometer By Year: 2019-2022
Because of the pandemic's impact on the economy, SelectLeaders found that between 2019 and 2020, the CRE industry saw decreases in the number of jobs posted, with the total number in each category dropping by approximately 45%.
Between 2020 and 2021, the economy showed signs of steadily bouncing back and several sectors added thousands of jobs. This extended to CRE — all 19 CRE categories in the report saw increases in the number of jobs posted, with the total number bouncing back to pre-pandemic totals.
So far, between 2021 and Q2 2022, however, SelectLeaders saw declining trends and activity dipped over the summer.
Despite the rises and dips, three categories remained on top: finance and investment, asset management and acquisitions. Between 2020 and 2022, these categories comprised almost 50% of total jobs posted.
Sam Chandan, director of the New York University Center for Real Estate Finance Research and a finance professor at NYU Stern School of Business, said that while hiring for real estate and finance roles may go through periods of highs and lows, employers are always putting forth efforts to hire top talent.
“Firms are always investing in recruitment because they’re thinking longer term, even if ebbs and flows in hiring activity occur,” Chandan said. “There are subsets of both finance and real estate where we’ll see some softening, but overall, in the finance fields, firms are continuing to recruit actively for high-quality talent as a long-term strategy.”
Jeffrey Gnoinski, global head of human resources for PGIM Real Estate, said that hiring at the firm picked up in 2021 because of increased transactions activity and capital flows, making up for a down period in 2020.
“When making hiring decisions, our priority is ensuring that we have the necessary resources to support our existing business activity while driving growth across the firm,” Gnoinski said.
Job Barometer By Q2 2022
Despite the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, hiring has continued on a growth trajectory in 2022. In May 2022, 390,000 jobs were added and the workforce rose by 33,000 individuals, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported by The New York Times.
The SelectLeaders report found that the number of jobs posted stayed fairly consistent between Q1 and Q2 2022. Finance, asset management and acquisitions remained at the top in 2022, posting 50% of jobs between Q1 and Q2 2022, even as finance dropped by about 29%. Technology and market research was one category that showed a minor gain in the number of jobs posted.
Chandan said the growth of technology could continue beyond Q2 2022, with the passing of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 on Aug. 25, 2022. This act helps with increasing manufacturing jobs and building more technologies domestically.
“If we are to ensure that we are building, developing and investing in domestic production capacity in the technology sector, we also need to think about if we’re producing the supply of talented engineers in the United States or allowing the most talented people with requisite skill sets to come from around the world and contribute to the economy,” Chandan said. “We need an incredibly talented workforce in the STEM disciplines.”
Most Applied Jobs
Year-over-year, finance, asset management and acquisitions were the categories that received the most job applications, according to the report. Among these sectors, finance had the most applications in 2019. The number of finance and asset management applications dipped in 2020, but increased in 2021, while in acquisitions, the number of applications rose in 2020, but decreased in 2021. Despite this decrease, acquisitions had the higher number of job applications in 2020 and 2021.
Christopher Lee, CEO and president of CEL & Associates Inc., a leading real estate advisory firm, said those positions that create value and place a premium on knowledge, relationships and experience are in high demand.
“Within the real estate industry, the need to find strong number twos and/or successor C-suite leaders is acute as succession planning and founder exits accelerate,” Lee said. “Acquisitions, development and most importantly, capital markets expertise, are in high demand.”
Dave Kutayiah, managing director and head of human resources at investment firm Clarion Partners, said that from the perspective of a firm, even though the number of applications varies with each role, the company always considers how the skills profiles of candidates align with the specified role when reviewing applications.
“It’s always about the quality of the candidates’ work experience and career accomplishments,” he said. “We may get 30 to 60 applicants for a role because we offer a competitive platform for growth. However, when narrowing down the applications to candidates with the most applicable experience, it comes out to about 15 to 25 qualified candidates.”
Gnoinski said that PGIM Real Estate has seen its number of applications decrease within the past year and a half, particularly at junior levels, which he attributes to the competitive market environment and the shortage of available talent at those levels.
“Historically, for entry-level positions, there would be several hundred applicants for a single role,” Gnoinski said. “Over the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve seen a significant reduction in applications. On average it has been about a 40% decline.”
Lee said that there are a number of reasons why people look for jobs, including a desire for work-life balance, cultural alignment with a company, compensation and career enhancement opportunities. Employers have been accelerating the assessment of their needs to figure out how to attract and retain top talent.
“One of the lessons emphasized from the pandemic is that ‘talent matters,’” Lee said. “Most real estate firms have pivoted, reorganized and taken a critical look at their talent needs and deficiencies, and once solidified, looking for, engaging with and securing best-in-class talent.”
Category By Compensation
Despite the pandemic’s impact on the workplace, compensation remained consistent across 13 CRE categories between 2019 and 2020, with increases in accounting, brokerage and corporate real estate. While compensation in accounting stayed consistent between 2020 and 2022, the salary ranges for the brokerage and corporate real estate categories increased in 2020 and again in 2022.
While there were decreases in insurance/risk management, general management/C-suite and marketing/communications salary ranges in 2020, all three categories saw increases in 2021. In 2022, while general management/C-suite compensation increased, insurance/risk management and marketing/communications decreased back to the 2020 range. Additionally, the facilities management/engineering salary range decreased from 2021 to 2022.
The report found that approximately half of the category buckets offered the same compensation range from 2021 to 2022. While only three CRE categories experienced salary decreases in 2022, five categories showed increases.
SelectLeaders Senior Corporate Recruiter Katie Hart said that bumping salaries and keeping salaries consistent with market value helps with securing top talent.
“Real estate has become a candidate-driven market, and employers realized that they need to pay at market value to get top talent on board,” Hart said. “Employers who are smart and savvy are aware that top talent costs money, and they are willing to offer competitive salaries.”
Lee said that some real estate firms may take inflation price increases into account and put together incentives to attract and retain top talent.
“Real estate firms are very aware of the challenges that inflation, the rising cost of living and a recessionary environment have on employee motivation, retention and well-being,” Lee said. “Pay raises in 2022, and very likely 2023, are expected to increase 5% to 7% and bonus realizations will be around 94% of potential. Special bonuses, retention bonuses, quarterly bonuses and other incentives are becoming popular with some firms.”
Hybrid vs. Remote Work
As pandemic restrictions began to ease, CRE firms had to make decisions about if or when to return to the office. While some companies have been keen to bring their employees back, others are exploring hybrid work. In spring 2021, CBRE found that 87% of large firms had plans to adopt a hybrid work model.
SelectLeaders found that 18 of the 19 categories reported a majority of jobs were in the office full time between 2020 and 2022, with the finance category holding the majority, at 836 full-time office jobs.
In the acquisitions field, however, a majority of jobs — 196 — were hybrid in the last three years. According to Worklife, even while some acquisitions firms have become accustomed to the hybrid work model through videoconferencing platforms, having face time may be essential for two companies to learn more about one another and ensure that the deal is successful.
Chandan said the capacity in which companies have gone back to the office has varied both by industry and company. Many real estate firms offer a three- or four-day-per-week arrangement, so that people can access mentorships, work with colleagues in the same space or close deals while still having flexibility, if need be, he said.
Kutayiah said that at Clarion Partners, employees often come in on Mondays to access learning opportunities and connect with co-workers in person.
“Collaboration and learning from each other is key,” he said.
For some companies, hybrid work models can change the structure of employment.
Lee explained how hybrid work can create a “multitiered employment model.”
“From work-from-home to the growing use of individual contributors, the workforce composition is rapidly changing, and the age of freelancers may be arriving sooner than anticipated,” Lee said. “While work-life balance can add tremendous value to the employee, the need to assemble an in-person team of aligned individuals working toward goals in a collaborative workplace environment can be very challenging.”
Conclusion: ‘People Still Need To Hire’
The first half of 2022 has been strong for CRE hiring, with specific sectors remaining stable. In 2022, asset management showed steady growth, from 13% in 2019 to 17% in 2022, and acquisitions remained the most applied-for job for the third year, according to SelectLeaders.
However, in August and September 2022, the number of jobs decreased significantly across each sector. According to Miranda, that is in line with a typical hiring cycle, in which there are slowdowns in Q3, but activity picks back up closer to and throughout Q4. It remains to be seen if hiring trends will continue as normal during an inflationary period, and what the future holds in 2023.
These findings and experts’ perspectives show a fraction of what is going on in the overall CRE hiring market. Frazier-Collins said that while report findings and national trends could offer some insight into future performance, a company would typically look internally at what positions need to be filled and use those needs to make hiring decisions.
“There is still a need for certain roles, and there are bottlenecks that companies are facing, where, for example, they have to get an asset manager, regardless of what the talks in the market are,” Frazier-Collins said. “Despite challenges some teams have faced and if what they’ve seen is considered a low in the market, whether they need to hire seems to be on an individual basis.”
Hart said that regardless of what happens in the industry for the rest of 2022, companies will still continue to hire.
“There’s been a lot of conversation about a potential recession for the past few months,” Hart said. “Commercial real estate is in a unique spot where there are people who are hesitant to hire because the market could shift, but the demand is still there, so they need to hire.”
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