Residential Construction Industry Making Recovery GainsJune 18th, 2013 by DWM Magazine
It’s often cited as the root of the economic malaise that has gripped America for much of the last six years. But things are starting to pick up in the residential construction industry as improved national employment figures, significantly lower interest rates, fewer foreclosures and overall optimism have led to an upswing in residential home sales. That was the assessment this week by economic experts from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) during their 2013 Mid-Year Construction Forecast. Kermit Baker, chief economist for AIA, David Crowe, chief economist for the NAHB, and Anirban Basu, chief economist for ABC, spoke in unison on their economic outlook for the non-residential construction sector, the residential construction sector and the architecture professionals that design projects for both construction sectors.
“It’s very good news from the housing [residential] industry,” Crowe said. “It has a lot of momentum.”
All three economists lauded America’s 16 consecutive quarters of economic growth that have helped pull the nation from the brink of economic collapse. The steady upward trend has seen residential housing prices rise nearly 10 percent nationally, although they are still a third of what they were prior to the recession, Baker said.
But there’s no mistaking the arduous climb back.
With the summer season underway, construction added 7,000 jobs in May as the industry’s overall unemployment rate dipped to 10.8 percent, which was well below the 13.2 percent from April and the lowest rate since October 2008, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
The recovery continues to be painfully slow for the nonresidential construction industry, but residential construction is having better luck. Residential building has accounted for the bulk of the growth in the construction industry. It was responsible for the creation of 4,600 jobs in May, accounting for nearly two-thirds of total construction growth.
But the temporary nature of a large number of those jobs means it would be premature to say things are close to getting back to what they once were. Temporary workers are less likely than permanent ones to induce new construction.
Yet, that trend is expected to continue for the near future as antsy decision-makers capable of funding the job-creating construction projects needed to fully revive the industry remain wary, Basu said. As a result, the overall construction industry remains down nearly two million jobs from December 2007, according to the latest figures.
Basu attributed much of the overall industry’s slow recovery to a federal government that is saddled with an enormous debt that forced it to lay off 58,000 employees in during the recession. The ongoing sequestration and the likelihood of future debt ceiling battles with Congress have scared off the government from funding construction projects that it might have gladly taken on otherwise, he said.
Other worries include the possible effects of the Affordable Health Care Act and any effects a long-term immigration reform bill might have should it pass both houses of Congress and become law. Twenty-two percent of the industry’s employees are immigrants, Basu said.
Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada were the states hit hardest by the collapse of the real estate market, but all four states are showing positive signs of bouncing back. -John Hollis, firstname.lastname@example.org