Construction job losses expected

From the Courier Post

Construction job market strong

Though new home sales have plummeted 20 percent from a year ago, U.S. construction employment is still up 3 percent. But the solid job news might not last.

“The trend has got to be sharply downward. The drop in home building has greatly exceeded my expectations,” says Kenneth Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. “I can only imagine that the August numbers stayed high because houses are still being finished, that were started” earlier.

The job market is being supported, in part, by a surge in commercial and public works projects. But residential construction hiring also rose in July and August. The national numbers obscure regional differences. In California, where the housing market is slowing, construction employment slid by about 4,000 in August. Still, in Arizona, where the housing market is also cooling, employment is up.

In South Jersey, the sentiments of those in the market are not quite as optimistic.

For Barbara Armand, president of Cherry Hill-based Armand Corp., a construction management company focusing on the public works sector, the anticipation of a deceleration was seen over a year ago with the election of a new governor.

“Every time a new government comes in, it slows down contracts being awarded,” said Armand, who is also chairwoman of the Southern New Jersey Development Council, located in the Turnersville section of Washington Township.

However, she added, the challenge goes far beyond a change in governor.

“Doing business in New Jersey is not favorable,” especially for organizations like hers, she said, noting that she feels the economy is not “conducive to small businesses.”

“When things slow down, you don’t necessarily let everybody go: You cut back on hours,” says Dave Seiders, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

He says it’s a bit early to see the impact of the slower market, but he expects job losses.

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