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Archive for May, 2013

May 19, 2013

Posted by nahetsblog on May 19, 2013

Jobless rate drops to low last hit in ’08

By Reed Fujii

San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate dropped to 12.9 percent in April, the lowest monthly jobless rate posted by the region since the global financial collapse more than four years ago, state officials reported Friday.

Normal seasonal gains in construction and farm hiring helped push unemployment down from a revised 14 percent in March. Still, April’s was the lowest rate since December 2008, when it also stood at 12.9 percent. And it’s much improved from April 2012, when unemployment was estimated at 15.5 percent.

The area’s job market recovery is gaining strength, said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific.

"This is not spectacular, but it looks pretty good," he said Friday in reviewing new labor market data from the state Employment Development Department.

"It’s been a long recession," he said. "Twelve-point-nine percent unemployment, … you feel a little awkward getting excited about it, but it feels pretty good compared to what we’ve been talking about for the last couple of years."

And the job picture should improve in May as well as farm and construction activity continues to increase, said Nati Martinez, a labor market analyst for the EDD. "That’s the normal seasonal trends for springtime," she said Friday.

From March to April, the county saw a gain of 500 construction jobs and an addition of 400 in agriculture.

"Almost all of the sectors aside from farm and construction had minimal increases," Martinez said.

More significant and broader changes were noted over the past year.

It’s estimated that San Joaquin County private-sector employers added 3,700 workers to the payrolls, a gain of 2.4 percent, in the past year.

Among major industrial sectors, trade, transportation and utilities posted the largest year-over-year gain – 1,600 jobs – which includes 900 trucking company employees and 200 additional workers each in wholesale trade, retail trade and warehousing. Construction employment gained 900 workers over the year.

The professional and business services sector added 700 jobs, mostly in administrative and support, and waste services, which include temporary-help agencies and janitorial services. That is one sector that often leads a jobs recovery.

Also, the leisure and hospitality sector grew by 600 employees, with most of those, 500, in restaurants and bars.

Michael said there is a divergence in the state’s employment data.

One set, based on a survey of San Joaquin County households, pegs civilian employment growth at 3.2 percent in April compared to the same month a year ago.

The other, a sampling of area payroll tax records, shows only a 1.9 percent gain in nonfarm employment over the same period.

The difference could be explained as an error caused by the two different sampling methods, Michael said. But the household survey also catches workers left out of the payroll survey, such as those who commute to work outside the county and, in particular, the self-employed.

Self-employment figures prominently in construction, agriculture, professional services and financial activities, particularly real estate.

"And those are some of the areas … that are the fastest-growing," Michael said. "Perhaps what we are seeing here is a shift to self-employment and faster growth in self-employment (categories)."

San Joaquin County’s monthly jobless rate of 12.9 percent for April compares with seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for California of 8.5 percent and 7.1 percent for the nation overall.

In reporting the more commonly cited seasonally adjusted rates for California, the EDD said Friday that in April the jobless rate dropped to 9 percent compared with 9.4 percent in March. In April 2012, the state unemployment rate was 10.7 percent.

The adjusted U.S. unemployment rate in April was 7.5 percent.

700 more construction jobs reported than last April

By Carlos Rico

Construction employment jumped by 700 workers in the county from a year ago, but there was no change from March to April, according data released from the California Development Department on Friday.

Last month there were 56,200 construction jobs in San Diego, and the county’s construction employment increased by 1.3 percent from April of last year.

“The housing revival did boost jobs in real estate, but the flat showing in construction last month was disappointing,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University.

April’s employment report also revised March’s job number and found that there were 300 fewer jobs than in February.

It was previously announced by the state that there were 56,500 jobs in March and February.

The state previously announced there were 56,500 jobs in March and February.

In the last 10 years, the county’s highest employment was in June 2006, when there were 95,100 construction jobs.

January 2011 reported the lowest construction employment numbers in the last 10 years with 53,600 jobs.

Of the 56,200 construction jobs reported last month, 38,300 of them were specialty trade contractors, 12,300 were made up of general contractors, and 5,600 were from heavy and civil engineering firms. All these categories were divided the same as in March.

Of the 38,300 specialty trade contractors, 16,500 were building equipment workers, 10,200 were those that perform finishing touches on projects, 6,800 work on building foundation and exterior labor, and 4,800 execute residual and other specialty trade work.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors, said the construction industry is showing some signs of recovery, but that employment is uneven.

“Recent federal construction spending cuts amid still modest private sector growth is making it hard for the industry to recover in more areas,” he said.

In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, construction employment was at 57,300 construction jobs in April, down 300 from March and down 1,800 from a year ago.

Orange County registered 73,000 construction jobs last month, 900 more than in March and 4,900 from April of last year.

In Los Angeles County, there were 115,300 construction jobs last month, an increase of 2,300 workers from March and a gain of 9,400 workers from last year.

California’s construction employment was at 608,400 workers in April, up 1.2 percent from March and up 8.5 percent from a year ago.

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Construction Employment Stablizes

Posted by nahetsblog on May 19, 2013

The number of building construction employees remained stable from March to April 2013 with a slight 0.1 percent increase, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS estimates that approximately 1.262 million (seasonally adjusted) were employed in building construction-related jobs in March 2013, compared with 1.263 million in March 2013.

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May 9, 2013

Posted by nahetsblog on May 9, 2013

U.S. construction employment climbs in 152 metro areas, finds AGC

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Construction employment in the United States increased in 152 out of 339 metropolitan areas between March 2012 and March 2013, declined in 126 and was stagnant in 61, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released May 2 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that many metro areas are adding jobs as construction spending increased 4.8 per cent, or $38.9 billion, during the same time frame.

“Today’s figures on employment by metro area and construction spending nationally in March highlight the uneven and fragile recovery that construction is experiencing,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The totals are up on a year-over-year basis, and should continue to improve during the remainder of 2013, but not every sector or region will do well.”

Pascagoula, Miss. added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (47 per cent, 1,700 jobs). Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (12,000 jobs, 11 per cent) added the most jobs.

The largest job losses were in Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (-2,700 jobs, -3 per cent). Monroe, Mich. (-19 per cent, -500 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Simonson noted that national construction spending in March 2013 was 4.8 per cent higher than in March 2012, but down 1.7 per cent from a month earlier. Only private residential construction spending grew in both time periods, rising 0.4 per cent for the month and 18 per cent year-over-year. Private nonresidential spending retreated 1.5 per cent from the February level, but increased 2.8 per cent from March 2012.

“For the rest of the year, the best performing categories are likely to be multifamily housing, power and energy, manufacturing, warehouses and private transportation while most public segments will continue to languish,” Simonson added.

“For the year as a whole, I expect both residential and private nonresidential construction spending to top 2012 totals by 10 to 15 per cent, while public construction will slip two to five per cent.”

Home builders struggling to find enough construction workers

The real estate bust drove many workers out of the construction industry. Luring them back, or training new skilled laborers, is no easy task.

By Alana Semuels and Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles Times

May 8, 2013

The real estate bust idled hundreds of thousands of construction workers. Now, with housing on the mend, builders are hiring again.

Trouble is, many workers aren’t coming back.

Years of sporadic employment drove many from the industry. Incomes aren’t what they used to be. Laid-off workers remember the sting of lost livelihoods; some have had enough of boom and bust.

Former house painter Alan Schaffer has hung up his paintbrush to pursue a degree in business administration. The Riverside County resident says he’s looking for a livelihood that’s stable.

"I love construction, I love building," said Schaffer, 45. "But I can’t have a job that pays me $50,000 one year and zip the next. I need to be more financially secure."

With home prices surging in Southern California and across the country, builders are again seeing big opportunities. Housing starts and new-home sales are up. But even as California unemployment remains stuck above 9% — among the highest in the nation — construction companies say they’re struggling to find enough qualified workers to keep up with demand for new homes.

"We’re starting to see spot shortages of labor," said John Nunan, president of Unger Construction, a commercial building contractor that does work in Northern California.

Many experienced union workers retired during the slowdown, he said. Others found new careers. Now many contractors, especially in the Bay Area, where construction is booming, can’t find all the workers they need. Nunan said the plumbing contractor he’s working with in a job in Sonoma, for example, is having a hard time hiring plumbers.

Part of the problem is pay. Workers’ earnings in the construction industry fell more sharply — and are now recovering more slowly — than those in many other industries. Hourly pay for construction workers, adjusted for inflation, was $11.22 in 2012, down 3.1% from 2009.

Normally, worker shortages push up wages. But builders say they can’t match what they paid before the recession. Costs for building materials are rising. So are land prices in many areas.

Many laborers are grateful just to be working again. Still, hard hats such as Danny Fregoso, a supervisor at Joseph Holt Plastering Inc. of Corona, can’t help but miss the fat paychecks that accompanied the housing bubble.

During the best of times, Fregoso said he made about $26 an hour, while entry-level workers were making about $17 or $18. These days he’s earning about $16 an hour.

"We used to make a lot more money," said Fregoso, working recently at the six-story Jia Apartments project in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. "We all took pay cuts, then a lot of them left and found other jobs better than this one."

Although housing is surging in most Western states, construction employment is still well off its peak.

In California, construction employment plummeted 42% to 544,700 workers in September 2010 from a peak of 945,100 in February 2006. The industry has since rebounded to 620,400 workers, up 14% from its bottom.

It’s much the same in Nevada and Arizona, where construction employment fell by more than half from the peak. Construction sites are stirring again, but workers aren’t rushing back.

Stagnant wages aren’t helping lure workers to job sites in Arizona’s brutal desert heat, said Brett Jones, vice president of operations at the Arizona Construction Assn. Both young and experienced workers are staying away, he said.

Arizona’s tough new immigration laws, passed in 2010, aren’t helping matters either, advocates contend. The U.S. Supreme Court later found parts of that legislation unconstitutional. Still, thousands of Latinos have left the state.

Meanwhile, the flow of migrants north from Mexico and Central America has slowed substantially, in part because of tougher enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. construction industry depends heavily on Latino labor. At the height of the boom, Latinos made up one-quarter of the U.S. construction labor force; most of them were foreign-born, according to the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

"The workforce has gone somewhere else," said Richard Usher, who runs an insurance company for construction firms and is also co-founder of Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform. "They had to feed their families."

Some older workers have left the industry as well.

When the housing market crashed, Timothy Wagner, a New Jersey painting contractor with two decades of experience, called it quits. He had grown weary of putting his body through all the bending and climbing that painting entailed. To put two daughters through college, he took a six-week truck-driving course, and now he pilots a big-rig.

"It’s so much nicer to know that I’m getting paid every week," said Wagner, 43. "There were so many times I was late on bills because I was waiting to get paid."

Construction has always been a cyclical business. In past recessions, skilled tradesman could hang on for a year or two until work started up again. Often slowdowns were regional, meaning workers could move to new cities. But the most recent housing bust was so severe, long and widespread that the construction labor market suffered unusual damage.

"The problem, frankly, was those skilled workers — and that whole labor pool — was not able to remain unemployed for five years," said Mike Winn, chief executive of the California Builders Assn.

The bust has also left behind a perception of construction as an inherently unstable line of work, industry representatives said.

"There’s been pretty consistent news coverage about the fact that there are no jobs in construction," said Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America. "More broadly, we have a message that says: ‘If you want to be successful, you have to go to college.’"

Turmail and his association want to see a pipeline for training skilled construction workers, with schools like those for other skilled trades. Some states, including Alabama, Georgia and Missouri, have recently heeded this call and founded programs to encourage workers to go into construction.

Dean Word, a Texas construction contractor, says many of his workers are lured away by higher wages in the fast-growing energy sector. Many oil companies pay $2 to $3 an hour more than what construction employers pay.

"The oil field is paying a premium for any labor that will pass pre-employment physicals — it’s a pretty good wage for people that meet their requirements," Word said. "That’s tough for us to compete against."

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May 3, 2013

Posted by nahetsblog on May 2, 2013

Construction employment in San Antonio rose 5 percent in March

General contractors in San Antonio added 1,900 employees to their payrolls between March 2012 and March 2013, according to Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

The San Antonio/New Braunfels metropolitan region had 40,200 construction employees last March. A year later, that number had risen 5 percent to 42,100 workers.

That’s the same percentage by which employment figures went up in February as well.

In February 2012, the greater San Antonio construction industry had 40,000 workers. By February 2013, that number had risen 5 percent to 41,900 workers.

AGC’s breakdown for the Texas metros shows that all but two cities saw employment numbers rise between March 2012 and 2013. Employment numbers decreased 1 percent in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area. Meanwhile, employment numbers were unchanged in the Sherman/Denison area.

Corpus Christi added the highest percentage of new construction jobs at 18 percent.

The Dallas/Plano/Irving metro added the highest number of jobs — 12,000 between March 2012 and 2013.

Construction Employment Increased Annually In 152 Metro Areas

Construction employment levels are reported below by the Associated General Contractors of America:

Construction employment increased in 152 out of 339 metropolitan areas between March 2012 and March 2013, declined in 126 and was stagnant in 61, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials noted that many metro areas are adding jobs as construction spending increased 4.8 percent, or $38.9 billion, during the same time frame.

“Today’s figures on employment by metro area and construction spending nationally in March highlight the uneven and fragile recovery that construction is experiencing,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The totals are up on a year-over-year basis, and should continue to improve during the remainder of 2013, but not every sector or region will do well.”

Pascagoula, Miss. added the highest percentage of new construction jobs (47 percent, 1,700 jobs) followed by Fargo, N.D. (21 percent, 1,300 jobs); Merced, Calif. (19 percent, 300 jobs); Anchorage, Alaska (18 percent, 1,500 jobs); Corpus Christi, Texas (18 percent, 4,000 jobs) and Salinas, Calif. (18 percent, 700 jobs). Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (12,000 jobs, 11 percent) added the most jobs. Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (8,500 jobs, 5 percent); Baltimore-Towson, Md. (7,700 jobs, 12 percent) and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (7,500 jobs, 7 percent).

The largest job losses were in Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (-2,700 jobs, -3 percent) and Northern Virginia (-2,700 jobs, -4 percent); followed by Cincinnati-Middletown, Ohio-Ky.-Ind. (-2,600 jobs, -7 percent); Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Mich. (-2,300 jobs, -14 percent) and Raleigh-Cary, N.C. (-2,200 jobs, -8 percent). Monroe, Mich. (-19 percent, -500 jobs) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large percentage declines in construction employment included Rockford, Ill. (-18 percent, -700 jobs); Bellingham, Wash. (-15 percent, -1,000 jobs) and Pocatello, Idaho (-15 percent, -200 jobs).

Simonson noted that construction spending nationally in March was 4.8 percent higher than in March 2012, but down 1.7 percent from a month earlier, according to new Census Bureau data. Only private residential construction spending grew in both time periods, rising 0.4 percent for the month and 18 percent year-over-year. Private nonresidential spending retreated 1.5 percent from the February level, but increased 2.8 percent from March 2012. Public construction activity dropped 4.1 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

“For the rest of the year, the best performing categories are likely to be multifamily housing, power and energy, manufacturing, warehouses and private transportation while most public segments will continue to languish,” Simonson added. “For the year as a whole, I expect both residential and private nonresidential construction spending to top 2012 totals by 10 to 15 percent, while public construction will slip 2 to 5 percent.”

Construction awaits an employment boost

Construction employment declined in three of the state’s four major metropolitan areas over the year ending in March, but a spate of recent project announcements is expected to turn those numbers around.

"The numbers basically seem like the industry is responding in fits and spikes to the recovery," said Scott Norvell, executive director of Master Builders of Iowa, which represents the state’s construction industry.

Construction employment in Greater Des Moines dropped 2 percent over the year ending in March, to 12,100 from 12,300. The largest decline was in the Quad Cities, which lost 700 jobs over the period. The only gain was in the Council Bluffs and Omaha area, where 1,600 jobs were added.

Norvell said the start of construction of a fertilizer plant in southeast Iowa combined with Principal Financial Group Inc.’s renovation and the building of a $300 million Facebook Inc. data center in Altoona will cause a spike in construction employment.

Two of the projects alone are estimated to create 4,500 jobs. The nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing plant near Wever would need 2,500 construction workers and the Facebook project would require 2,000.

"The real question is whether this is just another spike or is it what you can look at as a longer-term recovery," Norvell said. "We think the jury is still out on that."

Still, efforts by the Iowa Economic Development Authority to bring new business to the state should pay off in commercial construction, which will lead to gains in home building and the overall economy, Norvell said.

One drag on construction employment will be a lack of skilled workers, many of whom left the industry during the recession and have not returned. The recession interrupted training sessions that were underway. In addition, the industry has an aging workforce.

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