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Construction Sector Recovery Seen as Regional, in Keeping with Overall Private Sector Trends


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Numbers released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) show that construction jobs grew in 185 of 339 metropolitan areas between May of 2012 and May of 2013. In 115 other metropolitan areas numbers decreased and in 39 others they remained stagnant, according to AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson,

“It appears that the months-long growth in private sector demand for a host of residential and non-residential construction work is finally translating into significant numbers of new construction jobs in many parts of the country.  Even though some metro areas will continue to lose construction jobs, sector employment is likely to continue expanding in most parts of the country for the immediate future.”

The regions with the largest job growth include:

Pascagoula, Miss. added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (47 percent, 2,000 jobs), followed by Eau Claire, Wis. (29 percent, 900 jobs); Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. (29 percent, 200 jobs) and Napa, Calif. (25 percent, 600 jobs). Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz. added the most new jobs (13,000 jobs, 15 percent), followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (9,700 jobs, 9 percent); Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass. (9,100 jobs, 18 percent); Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (8,900 jobs, 5 percent) and Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (8,800 jobs, 15 percent).

For the Eau Claire region, which had the second-highest job growth, the numbers are reflective of new development made possible partially by an improving overall economy:

Eau Claire ranked high on the list because of a surge in construction at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, manufacturing plant expansions, highway work and the construction of a new county jail.

A frac-sand processing plant also was built, said Brian Doudna, executive director of the Eau Claire Economic Development Corp.

According to Mike Fabishak, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee,

“We are getting some increased activity, although some of the construction dust we are seeing is not necessarily affecting all contractors across the board,” Fabishak said.

“I think we are seeing some kind of recovery in the industry, albeit small and somewhat sporadic,”

The New York Times is not as quick to rally ’round the recovery, no matter the size. Their weekend blurb, “Puzzling Weakness in Construction,” lumps construction together with other poor private sector employment trends:

…the relative recovery in the housing sector recently hasn’t come close to restoring anything near the employment level in construction that prevailed before the housing boom turned to bust, helping to bring on the recession.

At 5.79 million now, there are nearly two million fewer construction jobs than in late 2006.
Just why construction employment has been so weak, despite a pickup in construction, has puzzled economists. After all, it’s not as if construction work can be outsourced to Asia or replaced by robots.

Instead, as is true in much of the private sector, it seems that builders are doing more but adding fewer workers.


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