Big construction employment gains indicate rising contractor confidence

Updated Mar 12, 2013

apartment constructionOn Friday the latest round of figures from the U.S. Labor Department showed that the construction industry enjoyed its highest monthly gain in six years by adding 48,000 jobs in February.

The construction industry employs 5.784 million Americans as of February. That’s the highest mark the industry has attained since September 2009 and is a 2.5-percent improvement from the same time last year.

Reuters followed up on the news with a couple of contractors who both said they feel confident things will continue to look up for the industry.

Scottsdale, Arizona contractor Charles Cork said he is preparing to build a $1 million home on speculation. The last time he built a home without a buyer lined up? 2009.

The recession hit the Phoenix area, where Cork built luxury homes since the 1990s, hard. Home prices fell 55 percent from 2006 to 2011. In the three years since his last spec build, Cork survived the recession by doing remodeling work.

But with housing prices bouncing back 25 percent by the end of last year, Cork says people in the area are in the buying mood again.

“It took a while for people to have confidence that it’s not going to get worse,” Cork told Reuters. “In fact they are now thinking that maybe they ought to do something because it’s going to get better.”

In the oil boom town of Williston, North Dakota, Kim Hale is the superintendant of a 240-room hotel being built. Forty workers have been on the clock since last October and the company he works for, Burke Construction Group, is bidding to build a new bank, apartments and to expand the local fire department.

Hale was out of work for three years but now feels confident in the rebound. “I just think this boom is going to keep going,” he told Reuters.