Could the hiring numbers get worse for South Florida’s construction industry? Each month delivers the surprising answer: yes.
July employment numbers continued the long, deep decline for construction hiring in the region. This despite a surge in building permits that signals the construction industry has recovered from its coma and is breathing again.
South Florida now has had 61 months of construction-job losses. And the declines have been accelerating during the last two years. The construction industry in Broward and Miami-Dade employs about 55,000 people — 54 percent fewer than its peak of 118,000 construction workers in early 2006.
The housing boom sent employment soaring, and the housing bust caused it to crater. But the public sector plays a role in construction cutbacks. The construction sector includes road pavers, bridge repair crews and other contractors hired by government for infrastructure work — spending that has been under pressure during the downturn with no immediate relief in sight.
Did the July employment numbers bring any good news? The sub-category that deals almost exclusively with occupations tied to home building is not dropping as quickly as the broader construction sector. Specialty contractors — including framers, masonry contractors, foundation layers, roofers and similar fields — saw only a 4 percent decline in July compared to the prior year. In July, construction jobs in general dropped 9 percent.
That gap likely reflects the improving home-construction scene, which is far better than a year ago but still depressed. Building permits in Miami-Dade are up about 50 percent from the same time in 2011and in Broward they’re up 70 percent. In Miami-Dade, permits are off 85 percent from peaks set in 2005, and Broward permits are off about 69 percent from that year.
The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine tracks 60 local indicators in an effort to chart South Florida’s recovery from the Great Recession. By comparing current conditions to where they were before the downturn, the ETM attempts to measure how far back the recession set the economy. The answer so far: June 2003. Visit ETM headquarters at miamiherald.com/economic-time-machine for the latest updates.