Construction employment in New York City reached 102,600 in the first quarter of 2012, which is a three percent decline from the same period a year ago and the lowest level of industry employment since the first quarter of 1999, according to a New York Building Congress analysis of New York State Department of Labor employment statistics.
The 102,600 construction jobs represent a 20 percent decline from the first quarter of 2008, which was a peak year for City construction activity.
New York City construction employment for all of 2011 averaged 111,500, down from 112,400 jobs in 2010; 120,700 jobs in 2009; and 131,800 jobs in 2008. According to its recent Construction Outlook Update, issued May 1, 2012, the Building Congress projects construction employment will increase to 120,800 this year.
Construction industry employment generally is lowest in the first quarter of each year because companies reduce employees on payroll during the winter months.
The heavy construction and civil engineering sector shed 2,600 jobs from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012 (a 32 percent decline).
The specialty trades sector, which includes plumbers and electricians, lost 1,800 jobs during this time period.
The building construction sector, however, saw a net gain of 1,300 jobs.
The average wages earned by construction workers continues to increase gradually.
Construction workers in New York City earned an average of $51,000 in the first nine months of 2011 (the latest period for which data are available), compared to $49,200 for the same period in 2010 and $48,600 during the first nine months of 2009.
Given that fourth quarter earnings are generally highest, due to year-end bonuses, it appears that annual earnings in 2012 will top $70,000 for the first time in New York City. Annual earnings reached $69,700 in 2010 and $69,300 in 2009.
“Government spending on infrastructure projects helped buoy the industry in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Thanks to ongoing City and State capital projects and the injection of federal stimulus money, infrastructure related jobs in heavy construction and civil engineering increased in 2009 and 2010 but are now declining,” said New York Building Congress president Richard T. Anderson. “While this sector represents just five percent of the industry’s employment, the year-to-year reduction in these jobs is a source of concern as it suggests that private sector firms are laying off workers as a result of decreased government spending.”
Anderson added, “On a brighter note, we are encouraged by the uptick in employment for buildings workers, which suggests that private sector developers and institutions are beginning to invest once again in residential, commercial and institutional properties. As the economy drives jobs and spending from public infrastructure programs to a broader mix of projects, the construction industry in New York City is demonstrating its resilience.”