Here are the “Missing” Construction Jobs – Real Estate Matters
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Here are the “Missing” Construction Jobs

I recently found an interesting article about construction jobs and the recovering housing market written by Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko, check it out below:

Construction jobs are a big part of how housing recovery lifts the broader economy. But the construction rebound, so far, appears to be jobless. “Residential construction” jobs, as reported by BLS, were up just 1% in December 2012 from their lowest level since the housing bubble burst – even though new home starts in December 2012 were twice as high as their low point in 2009. Overlaying residential construction employment (monthly, in thousands, left axis) and construction starts (monthly, in thousands, right axis) data suggests a jobless housing recovery, with jobs struggling to turn around even as starts climbed sharply in 2012:

Who is building all these new homes? If starts are now twice their lowest level, why aren’t residential building jobs also twice their lowest level, instead of up just 1%? The answer: this is the wrong way to look at construction jobs. It turns out that construction employment is approximately where it should be for the current level of construction activity. Here are three reasons why:

“Starts” aren’t the right measure of current construction activity. Units “under construction” is more relevant – especially now. The amount of construction activity this month depends not only on this month’s construction starts but also on construction starts in previous months. That’s because single-family construction takes 4-6 months between start and completion, and multi-unit-building construction takes 10-14 months, on average. Therefore, construction starts indicate what will happen to construction activity in the coming months – not necessarily where it is today. And, in this recovery, multi-unit buildings are an unusually high share of overall construction activity, so the typical new unit is under construction for longer, making starts an even-worse-than-usual proxy for current construction activity. Instead of starts, units “under construction” – also reported monthly by the Census – is the right measure of construction activity to compare with jobs. This changes the picture dramatically: while monthly starts in December 2012 were up 100% (that is, have doubled) since the bottom, monthly units under construction were up 32% from the bottom.

The “residential building” jobs category understates growth in residential construction jobs. The BLS “residential building” category covers general contractors and construction management firms but not subcontractors, which are covered under another category the BLS tracks, “residential specialty trade contractors.” Importantly, residential construction jobs have been shifting steadily from general contractors to specialty trade contractors throughout the boom, bust, and recovery, so the narrower “residential building construction” category understates recent growth in construction jobs. “Residential building” jobs in December 2012 were up just 1% from the bottom, while “residential specialty trade contractor” jobs were up 4%. The combined series is up 3% from the bottom. Of course, some construction workers might not be officially counted if they’re off the books, and others might work on both residential and non-residential projects and not fit neatly into one reporting category. Still, looking at both the “residential building” and “residential specialty trade contractors” gives a clearer picture than looking only at “residential building.”

Follow this link to read the entire article:

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