April 19, 2021

Maybe there will be a faster recovery now that many people are being vaccinated, but that improvement hasn’t yet shown up in the economic data. The report that the economy added 900,000 jobs in March is encouraging but not entirely convincing because the mechanisms used to estimate such data probably don’t work well in this unusual situation. The re-opening of local economies is beset by political decisions and, most importantly, the pandemic is still here.

What we are sure of is that large numbers of people are still without a job. Until they find work – or some other means of support – the economy cannot recover and real estate markets will remain uncertain. An economy that simply tries to ignore the unemployed will also produce uncertainty, although from the political side.

The recession has affected people in all types of jobs but the main financial burden has fallen on people with lower pay, who are mainly renters. If large numbers of evictions follow (landlords need income too) the likely result will be an expansion of the lower end of the rental market and a contraction of the middle (where landlords may have a tougher time finding tenants).

How can you measure the loss of jobs? Usually by comparing to the number of jobs in the same month of last year. But starting this month (and most dramatically for April) that measure will give absurd results because it’s at this time last year that the dramatic loss of jobs began. If you’ve fallen 100 feet down a well, it doesn’t matter that you climbed up 50 feet – you’re still in the well. So we’ll report the current level of jobs compared to an average level of several months right before the pandemic.

By that measure, total jobs in March were down 5.3 percent, including 4 percent in manufacturing, 4 percent in retail, 1 percent in finance, 3.5 percent in business services, 3 in healthcare, 14 percent at restaurants and 4.4 percent in government

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