Job creation and construction spending are on the rise in the home building industry, government sources report. Though modest compared to their respective peaks, industry watchers agree the increases demonstrate market recovery continues its slow march forward.
A surge in housing construction contributed to the home building sector adding more than 100,000 jobs to the economy last year, alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the point of peak decline in homebuilding employment, when total job loss for the industry stood at $1.466 million, the residential construction sector has gained 243,000 positions. From September 2013 to February 2014, the homebuilding and remodeling industry added jobs at the pace of 8,000 jobs per month.
Combined with declining layoffs, the uptick in job openings over the past several years suggests more — albeit modest — construction hiring in the near term, provided home builders can find workers with the right skills, says the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). According to labor department statistics, the number of unfilled construction sector jobs increased 38 percent from January 2013 to the first of this year, landing at 156,000 positions — the second highest count of open jobs in the sector since May 2008. The number of openings represents both an opportunity and a challenge for home builders.
In other good news, the NAHB reported last month the number of markets doing better than the national average in terms of single-family permits, home prices and employment levels rose to 152 from 147 month over month. “The gradual, persistent increase in the number of markets improving is further indication of the slow but steady process of resolving the economic and housing problems that developed during the Great Recession,” the association stated last month in its Eye on the Economy newsletter.
Going forward, NAHB survey data indicate available lots, labor issues and building material costs remain top industry challenges. Experts agree bigger gains in employment and consumer confidence are needed to help spur recovery and sustain the industry’s contribution to the nation’s overall economic health.
• Andy Warren is president of Maracay Homes, the Arizona subsidiary of the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company. He serves on the board of directors for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and Greater Phoenix Leadership; as well as the board of directors and as an Executive Committee member with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He is also an active member of the Urban Land Institute.