The first customers Michael Guarino saw after superstorm Sandy asked to cancel orders for furniture no longer needed in their damaged homes, threatening the survival of a business his family opened three generations ago.
Then came a different set of clients. Two weeks after Sandy made landfall Oct. 29, Guarino, owner of Michael’s Furniture in Brick, New Jersey, began what’s turned into more than a month of 80-hour work weeks to serve residents re-stocking their houses.
“I can’t even keep up with it,” Guarino, 50, said of the post-storm demand. His business added two more delivery trucks and a warehouse. He expanded the staff to 27 from 15, with plans to hire more, even as Guarino said it’s “very difficult” to find local workers while residents are consumed with clean-up efforts.
Furniture dealers are among the businesses seeing a boom in orders as consumers in the Northeast recover from the worst Atlantic storm on record. The disaster that killed more than 100 people in 10 states, wreaked billions of dollars in damage and forced the first two-day shutdown of U.S. stock trading for weather since 1888 is also providing unexpected opportunities for companies assisting in the rebuilding and the employees they’ve hired to help.
Construction, plumbing, sand supply, tree removal, road repair and structural engineering are among services spread thin.
Sandy has probably increased the demand for construction workers by at least an additional 30,000, said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at Economic Outlook Group LLC, a Princeton, New Jersey-based forecasting firm.
The economic boost of post-storm reconstruction probably will occur over the next year or two, and Baumohl said he expects “a real big, V-shaped rebound” in construction over the next six to 12 months.
“We’re going to see a significant multiplier effect with all these jobs that are going to be generating income for these workers, which are then going to spend that additional income in the economy,” Baumohl said. The rebuilding effort could add 0.4 percentage points to U.S. growth in 2013, he said.
Recovery from a natural disaster takes years, said Michael Lahr, associate research professor at Rutgers University’s Center for Urban Policy Research in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Yet, New Jersey’s coastal companies are seasonal and probably will recover more quickly since vacationers will return, compared with New Orleans businesses, which suffered after the city lost half its population in the year after Katrina.