Job Gains Continue to Normalize After Recovery Rebound

As the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession continues, annual gains in employment that had spiked in May are beginning to temper toward more normal levels.

The U.S. gained 6.3 million jobs in the year-ending June, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This pace is down from the 8.6 million jobs gained in the year-ending May, and below the 10 million jobs added in April.

The sum of jobs gained in June’s top 10 markets of about 2.2 million has fallen from the peak of about 3.1 million in May 2021 and should decline further to about 1.8 million in July if the trend continues.

Prior the pandemic, this month’s top 10 markets averaged annual job gain totals between 400,000 and 500,000. It should take roughly another five or six months before employment gains return to pre-pandemic levels.

Nine of last month’s top 10 markets for job gains returned to the list in June and several changed places. New York continues to top the list for annual employment gains with 550,400 jobs returning to the Big Apple. However, that slowed from 628,000 jobs gained through May. Chicago moved up one spot to #2 with 225,700 jobs gained and Boston moved up from #6 in May to #3 in June with a gain of 217,400 jobs. Los Angeles and Philadelphia returned to the #4 and #5 spots with gains of 209,700 and 206,900, respectively.

Washington, DC, Dallas, and Atlanta each moved up one spot on June’s top job change markets, gaining close to 160,000 jobs apiece. Detroit tumbled down the top 10 list this month, falling from #2 to #9 with a gain of 152,400 jobs in the year-ending June. That was a decline of more than 50% from May’s annual gain. Phoenix replaced Las Vegas at the #10 spot, adding 134,300 jobs to employment rolls.

Despite significant gains in employment in the past year, all the top 10 job gain markets are still below their pre-pandemic employment levels. Dallas has regained the most ground, with a current job base total that is only 0.8% below February 2020 employment, while New York and Los Angeles are each more than 8% down. The remaining top 10 markets fall between 2.5% and 4.9% below their February 2020 employment levels.

Thirteen of the 150 markets RealPage tracks have regained all of the jobs lost during the pandemic, and with the exception of Salt Lake City, are mostly small college towns. Kansas City and Austin are on the cusp of regaining their pre-pandemic employment levels, while Dallas, San Antonio, Memphis, and Denver are not far behind. Markets that still have a long road to full recovery include: Midland/Odessa, Urban Honolulu, New Orleans, and Orlando. Each are still 10% or more below their February 2020 employment levels.

On a month-over-month basis, only four markets had higher annual job gains in June than in May. The hard-hit Midland/Odessa market gained an additional 3,200 jobs, while Boulder, CO, Provo, UT, and Wichita, KS each gained about 1,000 additional jobs. The biggest declines in annual job gains from May were in Detroit (-164,200 jobs), Los Angeles (-80,000 jobs), Chicago (-78,000 jobs), and Las Vegas (-64,500 jobs).

These month-over-month comparisons of not seasonally adjusted labor data from the BLS can sometimes be misleading, but nonetheless give an idea of overall trends. In addition to the markets listed above, New York, Philadelphia, Riverside, and San Diego had declines of about 50,000 jobs or more compared to last month.

With the job gain spikes continuing to recede, 15 markets had annual job gains of 100,000 or more compared to 22 in May and 32 in April. Another 23 markets gained between 50,000 and 99,999 jobs, six less than May. None of the top 150 markets had an annual job loss from last June.

Annual percentage change in employment continues to be strong but with moderating job gains, the top performers have seen reduced job growth as well. Only half of May’s top 10 returned in June and the top percentage gain market of Las Vegas saw a reduction in job growth of 860 basis points (bps) to 12.8%.

Las Vegas, Providence, New York and Boston were the only major markets in the top job growth market list. Providence logged an increase of 9.5%, while both New York and Boston had annual growth of about 9%. Last month’s #10 market – Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY – had a growth percentage of 14%, above the #1 market this month.  The remaining top growth markets ranged from 8.6% to almost 12%.

The weakest large markets for percentage growth include Cleveland (2.8%), (Houston (3.4%), San Jose (3.6%), Fort Worth (4%), Milwaukee, Oakland, and Miami (all at 4.1%). However, in pre-pandemic times, these employment growth rates would be considered solid.