From the Wall Street Journal:
Mortgage brokers, prepare your résumés. And while you are at it, highlight any experience you’ve had in health care.
The reason: Housing, the biggest generator of jobs in the current expansion, is running out of steam. As a result, tens of thousands of Americans, from bankers to hardware-store clerks, are likely to find themselves out of work over the next couple of years. For those who can transfer their skills to other industries that are still growing, such as health care, it won’t be the end of the world.
“It’s not going to be a big show-stopper, because there are other areas of the economy that are picking up,” says Brian Bethune, U.S. economist at consulting firm Global Insight.
Few sectors can claim to have as much sway over the economy as housing. Housing-related employment has accounted for about 23% of the 4.9 million jobs created since the nation’s job market began to grow in late 2003, according to Moody’s Economy.com. That includes architects, contractors, real-estate agents, brokers and bankers, as well as the host of others who provide the industry with materials and services.
“There’s never been a housing boom like this one in terms of the reach, in terms of the range of industries affected,” says Ethan Harris, chief U.S. economist at Lehman Brothers in New York. “This is clearly unprecedented.”
Now, the boom is coming to an end. Total single-family-home sales were running at an annualized rate of 7.1 million in April, down more than 6% from the June 2005 peak. Backlogs of unsold homes are rising, and price increases are slowing.
Economists expect the slowdown to affect more than just housing-related jobs: As stagnating house prices and higher interest rates limit Americans’ ability to use their homes as a source of cash, they are likely to spend less money on consumer goods, meaning less work for all kinds of folks, from assembly-line workers to shop assistants.