Good news: Local construction job numbers are the best theyve been in years. Bad news: The fiscal cliff could choke off the positive momentum.
Those were the dual messages targeted at Congress presented at a press conference held by AGC of America and AGC of Washington in Seattle last week. Chapter First Vice President Butch Brooks (Brooks Construction Management) led the press conference which was hosted by Al Gonzales Vice President of Guy F. Atkinson Construction at Atkinsons Holgate to King Street Stage 3 viaduct project in Seattle.
The press conference was covered extensively in the local media. Below is a news clip from KCPQ:
The Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area added more construction jobs during the past year than all but one metro area as employment in the local industry hit a four-year high according to an analysis released by AGC of America. However local construction jobs in the area are at risk if Congress and the president allow the “fiscal cliff” to occur according to a new report the association also released.
Many local contractors that work on military construction projects are particularly vulnerable Brooks noted given the $2 billion hit to Defense Department construction projects included in the sequestration. In addition funding for local highway and transit projects is likely to be cut because the sequestration cuts nearly a half billion dollars out of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. And he warned that most economists predict the fiscal cliff would undermine broader economic growth. The tax increases from the cliff alone would increase unemployment and cause the economy to contract according to the Congressional Budget Office.
“Allowing the fiscal cliff to occur will only make our nation’s fiscal problems worse” Brooks noted. “Construction workers can ill afford the kind of recession that the fiscal cliff would cause.”
Brooks said that the Seattle metro area added 6500 construction jobs between October 2011 and October 2012 a 10 percent increase. He added that out of the 337 metro areas the association tracks only the Houston area added more construction jobs during the same time. There are 72700 people working in construction in the Seattle metro area today up from 66200 a year ago. The association official added that local construction employment in the area is higher than at any point since the summer of 2009.
Data is nearly as robust for the Tacoma metro area with a 9% increase in the last year and the Bellingham area with a 7% increase. Statewide construction employment grew 3%.
“It has been too long since we have had news like this to report here in Seattle” said Brooks. “Welcome as this news is the looming threat of the fiscal cliff could cost this area thousands of construction jobs.”
These increases in construction employment represent a significant change from a years-long construction downturn that has eliminated nearly one-third of the construction jobs that existed in the area in 2007. Brooks noted that Seattle lost almost 30000 construction jobs since October 2007. He added that 25% of the 211300 construction jobs that existed through Washington in June 2007 have disappeared.
Brooks said that the Puget Sound area is not alone. Nationwide 127 out of 337 metro areas added new construction jobs between October 2011 and October 2012 including the Wenatchee (5%) area. But he cautioned that 156 metro areas lost construction jobs during the same time period including a 6% decline in Yakima and 5% decline in Bremerton.
(In photo Brian Turmail Executive Director Public Affairs for AGC of America briefs reporters at the recent Seattle press conference.)