Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa Bay area sheds second highest number of construction jobs in the country

While other parts of Tampa Bay's economy pick up steam, its construction industry just hit a new low.

The Tampa Bay region was second only to Atlanta in the number of construction jobs lost over the past year, according to a trade group analysis released Monday.

The drop of another 4,000 jobs here, or 8 percent of the remaining construction labor pool, is bitter news to an industry already decimated by the biggest housing bust since World War II.

In November, the number of construction workers in the bay area dwindled to 47,300, the fewest in the field in 20 years. During the building boom peak in June of 2006, the region was teaming with nearly 95,000 construction workers.

"For every two jobs we had in 2006, now there's one," said John Rymer, president of Rymer Strategies, a Tampa real estate advisory and research firm.

"There's a lot of good people … that have had to be retrained," Rymer said. "They're not sitting there on the sidelines for five years waiting for the economy to come back."

Rymer attributes the latest employment drop to the end of some large commercial projects and phased-out stimulus funding. Residential construction has stopped its freefall and is showing scattered signs of recovery, but Rymer predicts it won't truly start picking up before 2013.

The recent numbers have startled veterans of an industry that used to pride itself as Florida's chief growth engine.

Jeff Thorson, division president of William Ryan Homes in Tampa, believes residential construction, at least, is bumping around a bottom, unlikely to get much worse.

But shy of any major corporate relocations to the area, "I don't see any dramatic turnaround," he said.

This year, William Ryan is closing on about 100 home sales, and Thorson said the company is budgeting for roughly the same next year. At the height of the boom, it was closing 400 houses a year.

Most builders have cut to the bone already, Thorson said.

"If it gets any worse, there will be more people closing their doors," he said.

If there's any solace, Tampa Bay isn't alone in looking for signs that the worst is over. More than five years after the housing bust, roughly half the metro areas continue to shed jobs.

Construction employment fell in 146 out of 337 metros over the past year, increased in 140 and stayed level in 51, according to the analysis by the trade group Associated General Contractors of America. Hardest hit Atlanta lost 7,700 jobs. (Houston topped the winners list, adding 5,100 construction jobs over the year).

Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, blamed the situation partly on pledged federal money for highway, transit and infrastructure construction stalled in Congress for years.

"If it wasn't for a slight increase in private sector demand, construction employment would be down in even more communities," he said.

AGC chief executive officer Stephen E. Sandherr said letting infrastructure programs languish when the industry is suffering "is the equivalent of fighting the economic downturn with one hand tied behind our back."

Over the past year, construction employment has been flat nationally, hovering just over 5.5 million jobs.

Contrast that to other segments of the economy that have shown varying degrees of recovery.

The national unemployment rate has fallen to 8.6 percent while Florida's unemployment rate has gradually retracted from a high of 12 percent last December to the current 10.3 percent.

Florida has been adding jobs year over year in hospitality and tourism; health care; professional and business services; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; and even manufacturing.

Construction, along with government, is one of the few laggards.

"Our industry has historically led out of recessions in years past," said Thorson of William Ryan Homes. "This one, obviously, is a lot different."

Job

losses*

1. Atlanta/

Marietta:

7,700

2. Tampa Bay

4,000

2. New York City:

4,000

4. Philadelphia

3,600

4. Dallas

3,600

* Construction job changes among 337 metro areas between October 2010 and October 2011

Source: Associated General Contractors

of America



Construction jobs

Biggest percentage declines

in construction employment*

Metro Area% Drop
1. Logan, Utah24
2. Wilmington, N.C.21
3. Redding, Calif.20
4. Montgomery, Ala.19
5. Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk, Conn.12
5. Albuquerque, N.M.12
15. Tampa Bay8

* Construction job changes among 337 metro areas between October 2010 and October 2011

Source: Associated General Contractors of America

Tampa Bay area sheds second highest number of construction jobs in the country 12/05/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 5, 2011 10:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]