Opinion

Will 2010 bring more jobs in construction?

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Print this page Paula C. Squires

For the construction industry, 2010 couldn’t come fast enough. Hopefully, a new year will restore jobs to an industry that saw employment drop last year in 324 out of 337 metropolitan areas.

According to figures just out by the Associated General Contractors of America, Virginia shared in the pain. From November 2008 through November 2009, construction employment in the Old Dominion dipped from 212,300 jobs to 194,900, for an overall drop of 17,400 jobs, or 8 percent. The biggest loss here came in the Richmond metropolitan area, where 11 percent of the jobs in construction disappeared.

The news is not surprising considering that spending on construction projects across America plunged by more than $137 billion in November to a six-year low of $900 billion, according to the Arlington-based industry group.  “Private nonresidential construction is in freefall …,” observes Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

Hardest hit?  Census Bureau figures released today show that private lodging investments fell 46 percent; retail, warehouse and farm spending dropped 41 percent and private office construction decreased 39 percent. 

So, what’s in the crystal ball for 2010? A recovery in homebuilding may inspire improvement in retail construction later this year, according to the Associated General Contractors. Plus, higher education and hospital construction may come back in the second half. Virginia already is seeing many hospital expansion projects in Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg and Richmond. 

Public construction also is benefitting from federal stimulus funds, with a year-over-year increase of 2.7 percent nationwide. 

While the new year may be young, these are encouraging bits of news. If the economy picks up as expected, businesses will grow, and they will need space. Liberty Tax Service in Virginia Beach just doubled the space for its corporate headquarters, adding a new 30,000-square foot building to an existing location. Hang in there construction workers; the pendulum appears to be swinging back.


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