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Using Labor Analytics to Uncover Investment Opportunities

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Colliers Capital Markets recently spoke to Bret Swango, CFA, Senior Vice President | Workforce Analytics & Location Strategy, about the migration of labor and how it affects real estate investors. Here are the takeaways.

Colliers Capital Markets (CCM): The labor market today is as competitive as in any time we've seen. How are location analytics helping clients find their employees?

Bret Swango (BS): The most critical element of any business is its people, having best-in-class information about supply and demand for the best, most diverse, affordable talent has become increasingly critical. The structural makeup and non-homogenous nature of real estate has made it among the laggards in transforming into a data-driven industry, as many investment decisions are still predominantly driven by hunches and headlines. COVID has changed the world in so many ways that the need for data-driven evidence for key business decisions has never been higher.

CCM: Where are you seeing some of the largest gaps between demand and availability for employees?

BS: It largely follows broader macroeconomic drivers. In general, over the last 18 months there has been a bit of a barbell effect, with strong demand for STEM talent pools as well as for lower-wage blue-collar talent. Increasing demand for digital transformation on the tech side (the need for remote work infrastructure, the shift in consumer spending habits, etc.) and soaring funding for life science sent demand for top talent to all-time highs. Meanwhile, accelerating e-commerce growth increased competition for lower-wage hourly warehousing workers to record levels.

CCM: Investors are heavily favoring the Sun Belt. What key trends are you seeing in the labor force?

BS: We are refreshing the data on our talent migration study performed last year. That analysis showed markets like Tampa, Austin, Phoenix, and Charlotte as the big winners of the COVID migration. They are also among the top markets for multifamily rental growth. Our analysis centered around factors like propensity of the labor pool to work remotely (can they leave their current city), size of the remote workforce (how many who can work remotely have chosen this city), quality of life (weather), and cost of living (taxes). Unsurprisingly, markets with high quality of life and low cost of living did disproportionately well. The market (even for human migration) is efficient. Better information through social media and the Internet are exposing the value proposition of the Sun Belt.

"We are refreshing the data on our client migration study performed last year. That analysis showed markets like Tampa, Austin, Phoenix, and Charlotte as the big winners of the COVID migration."

CCM: What’s your view on the permanency of remote work/flexible schedules?

BS: Technology inherently enables fewer people to generate a greater percentage of value in the world. Thus the best people, with the scarcest, most valuable skill sets (more demand than supply) in fields like IT security, data science, cloud computing infrastructure, etc., will continue to set the market and operate in their preferred environment. The more commoditized your skill set is, the less bargaining power you have about where you work.

This comes down to fundamental supply-demand dynamics. Right now there are still nearly two job openings for every unemployed individual, so the labor market has, for the most part, historically unprecedented leverage. However, this does appear to be changing: in just the past 60 days as many tech layoffs have been announced as in the prior 15 months (according to, and Google is the only one of the acclaimed “FAANG” stocks that hasn't announced some type of hiring slowdown or layoffs. About blue-collar talent, Amazon says it plans to slow its growth on its distribution center side and will sublease a number of facilities, potentially welcome relief to competitors for warehouse talent. Thus, the pendulum is starting to swing back in favor of the employer. Not coincidentally, Elon Musk publicly announced a mandated return to the office and within 48 hours, a 10% headcount reduction.

CCM: How can a focus on location strategy help investors make decisions?

BS: Tenants are the predominant value creation mechanism in commercial real estate, thus best-in-class analytics regarding both the current and emerging factors most critical to tenants' location selection decisions are core to generating alpha on behalf of investors. These variables and their weights will certainly shift over time and are doing so increasingly faster. Factors such as carbon footprint and diversity are now core to an occupier's decision process whereas 5-10 years ago, they were more of an afterthought.

"Tenants are the predominant value creation mechanism in commercial real estate, thus best-in-class analytics regarding both the current and emerging factors most critical to tenants' location selection decisions are core to generating alpha on behalf of investors."


Using Labor Analytics to Uncover Investment Opportunities

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Aaron Jodka

Director, National Capital Markets Research


As Director of Research | U.S. Capital Markets, Aaron is responsible for all aspects of research within the Capital Markets platform. He synthesizes and interprets a variety of data and information to stay ahead of trends that put our clients in an optimal position to make informed decisions. Aaron promotes the Colliers brand via best-in-class research reports, weekly insight posts, thought leadership, and contributions to numerous panels, media outlets, and industry events.

Aaron collaborates with every team at the firm and wears many hats: in-house economist, advisor, consultant, thought leader, strategic business analyst, presenter, and, of course, researcher. He connects with various industry experts within the Colliers organization to provide a customized solution for each client.

With a deep understanding of markets throughout the country, he provides a unique perspective on market dynamics across asset types and investment strategies, providing clients with tailored data and analytics to ultimately guide decision-making solutions.

Before joining Colliers, he spent 11 years with Property & Portfolio Research (PPR), now CoStar Portfolio Strategy. There, he advised institutional clients on their commercial real estate investment strategies across property sectors and also spoke at industry events, quarterly CoStar webinars, and in front of client audiences. Aaron also led and directed a team of economists who monitored property markets across the United States. Near the end of his tenure, he helped establish a new business unit at CoStar, leading in the hiring, training, and coaching of a team of 50 market analysts. 

Outside of the office, Aaron can be found cheering on his children at their extracurricular activities. He also enjoys hiking, travel, relaxing at home or at the lake, or plugging away at one home project or another. Last but not least, he's an avid fan of Boston sports teams.

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Bret Swango

Senior Vice President, Workforce Analytics & Location Strategy

Chicago - Downtown

With a strong quantitative background, I excel at using data to solve complex business issues. I leverage this skillset in leading the Workforce Analytics consulting practice for the Americas. 

My team provides an integrated approach to people, place and process powered by agile technology and advanced analytics to equip organizations with workforce-related insights to make quantitatively justifiable location-related decisions in labor markets around the world.

Prior to leading the Workforce Analytics team, I was a director on a Chicago-based corporate solutions team where I led a team of developers in developing tools and financial models to help clients address their most complex business challenges. These ranged from fully integrated finacial statement and risk models to landlord vulnerability and business intelligence tools.

Before joinging Colliers in 2015, I spent nearly 4 years working in a variety of roles at Allstate Insurance Company. There I held a number of roles and developed a distinct ability to 1) understand the root cause of the business problem, 2) identify the data required to solve the business problem 3) leverage the technical capabilities of myself and others to analyze the data, synthesisize the finding and communicate with leadership to solve the business problem. 

While at Allstate, I spent time as the lead financial and operational consultant to the Allstate Contact Centers which employ more than 3,000 FTE. In this role I led a redesign of the staffing model to more efficiently match supply (labor hours) and demand (call volume) which drove a double-digit improvement in utilization and improved profitability.

In my time on the agency economics team, I developed a model that identified inefficiencies in the agency compensation system and designed solutions to redistribute capital, helping drive profitable growth for the organization. This project led to a role on a team of 5 charged with a  complete redesign of the company’s $3 billion sales compensation program.

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