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NEW YORK CITY-The silver lining amid the still-cloudy hiring picture in commercial real estate is the rising number of opportunities related to workouts, acquisitions of distressed properties and asset management, says Anthony LoPinto, founder of SelectLeaders. That’s one of the key findings in the newly issued, third annual SelectLeaders/Cornell Job Barometer Report, which also suggests that the market may have already passed the bottom in one respect: the number of real-estate related postings across eight nationwide job boards. It reached a new low of 254 this past September.

“Many are pessimistic about the job outlook for real estate, given concerns in commercial real estate, implying that the worst may be yet to come,” says Dr. David Funk, director of the Cornell Program in Real Estate, in a release. “But the Job Barometer 2009 indicates that the bottom may have hit in 2009 and that the lag effect will be shortened due to an extensive and prolonged shedding of real estate jobs.”

From the hiring peak in June 2007—ironically, just before what was then known as the subprime crisis began to assert itself—to that low point in September ’09, there was a dropoff of 83% in real estate-related postings on Monster.com, CareerBuilder, SelectLeaders, E Financial, The Ladders.com, ISCS and Jobs in the Money. Moreover, no month in 2009 equaled even the worst job-postings month in 2008.

However, job listings in October ’09 rose 40% over the prior month, and while arguably that’s proceeding from a small base, it also suggests a modest recovery. “There is some evidence that employers have shed excess positions and can respond more quickly to changes in market conditions than what has previously been seen,” the report states.

Nevertheless, the report’s authors note that the volume of maturing commercial mortgages will be highest this year and next, and the ability of borrowers and lenders to make it through that time period is a great unknown that is substantially affecting the real estate job market. “This uncertainty is a cause for employers to delay hiring new employees until they see how the loan maturities play out,” according to the report.

The report found a reordering of priorities in terms of the jobs most sought by applicants. In ’07 and ’08, the office sector was the most popular, but the newest edition of the report puts real estate investment at the top of the rankings. It’s followed in the top 10 by office, multifamily, mixed-use, retail, residential, hospitality, industrial, mortgage and banking.

LoPinto cautions that the opportunities in workouts and asset management may take 12 or even 24 months to materialize, yet he thinks asset management is a particularly good point of entry into the industry. :The asset-level experience is the prime experience: you learn the business from the ground up, you understand the dynamics of the market and perhaps most significantly, you’re going to have a better chance of getting hired by a class A company through that entry point than you would through development,” he says in the report.In turn, that ties in with the need for asset managers in the current market. In the office sector in particular, property management job openings have shown an unexpected uptick. “Many office owners, whom are experiencing rising cap rate and stagnant, if not negative rent growth, are focusing on asset management to prepare for the coming mortgage maturities,” the report states. “Managing assets during the recession takes skilled and talented workers and office space owners and management companies realized they had too few employees to accomplish the job and began posting jobs to replace employees let go last year.”

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