* Home Depot stores in NY, NJ looking to hire 500 workers
* Long-term picture depends on U.S. aid to states
By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK, Dec. 5 Construction workers in the
U.S. Northeast should see hiring pick up after years of job
losses, as the region gears up to rebuild after the devastation
brought by Superstorm Sandy.
There could be roughly 25,000 new jobs for electricians,
laborers, carpenters and others in New York City over the next
two years, according to an early estimate from the office of
city Comptroller John Liu.
It remained unclear whether post-Sandy rebuilding projects,
coupled with a recent uptick in residential building, could
create enough construction jobs to make up for the tens of
thousands lost during the recession.
The estimated 25,000 construction jobs created in the Big
Apple from Sandy repair and reconstruction efforts would
essentially match the 22,700 construction jobs the city has
hemorrhaged since its pre-recession peak of 137,500 in August
2008, according data from the city Department of Labor.
In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the three states
hit hardest by the storm, experts said hopes for long-term job
growth for ironworkers, roofers and others in the building
trades depends on whether state and local governments can find
financing for major infrastructure upgrades.
The three states combined are seeking at least $82 billion
from the federal government to make emergency repairs. A
sizeable chunk would be used to beef up tunnels, transportation,
power facilities, water systems and other infrastructure to
better withstand future storms.
Whether states and towns get money for those projects
depends in part on whether Congress can reach an agreement on
deficit reduction and avoid tumbling over the so-called fiscal
cliff in January.
"Everything slows down, obviously, if we go over the cliff,"
said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at The Economic
Outlook Group, in Princeton, New Jersey. "A lot of monies for
that reconstruction would just not be available in a timely
With an influx of rebuilding money from insurance companies
and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for major
projects, the U.S. economy could see growth of an additional 0.4
percent in 2013, on top of the approximately 3.0 percent growth
already expected, he said.
The positive impact on growth could continue for next year,
2014 and beyond, he added.
With major infrastructure investment linked to Sandy and the
continuation of the uptick in homebuilding, the United States
could see at least 30,000 new construction jobs created by 2014,
a substantial portion of them in the northeast, Baumohl said.
Economists and others cautioned that it was too early to say
exactly how many construction jobs the storm may have created.
"The notion that somehow the storm solved our employment
problem in a long-term structural way - it didn't," said Paul
Fernandes, chief of staff for the Building and Construction
Trades Council of Greater New York, an umbrella group
representing all of the city's construction trade unions.
"If there's going to be a substantial effect, it will come
in the form of infrastructure improvements that are being talked
about now," Fernandes said.
AMID DESTRUCTION, A BRIGHT SPOT EMERGES
When it slammed into New Jersey on Oct. 29, the storm flung
down trees, ripped into beaches and caused widespread flooding.
In the aftermath, hundreds of thousands of homes and
businesses need repairs. Insurance companies in New York state
alone have received at least 360,000 claims related to storm,
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said, and the number is
likely to grow.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wrote to FEMA on Nov. 30
that costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures
alone - not including individual assistance or repairs to
houses, roads and public buildings - could exceed $160 per
Some workers have already been hired to do emergency repair
and debris removal and are now getting hired for rebuilding
Harry Bawa, who owns the general contracting firm Elite
Global Builders Inc in the New York City borough of Queens, said
he usually employs about 15 workers but now has up to 25 to keep
up with demand for services in the wake of the storm.
His company has several new jobs pouring new concrete
foundations for homes that saw theirs washed away. Each job can
take up to a week to complete.
"To make it quick, we try to put an extra amount of guys on
the job," Bawa said.
"For us, it's beneficial, but for the homeowner himself,
they're losing out," Bawa said. "Some don't have insurance. They
have to pay out of pocket. If you're in their shoes ... it's a
Reconstruction work can also spur increased hiring in
In New York and New Jersey metro areas, Home Depot is
looking to hire more than 500 temporary workers for stores
because of increased demand for everything from drywall to
generators to flooring, according to spokesman Stephen Holmes.
The U.S. Department of Labor is providing $46.7 million of
grant money to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode
Island for state governments to hire unemployed workers for
Cuomo has said that those grants could provide temporary
employment for about 5,000 people.
"We're going to get a boost in construction and cleanup, but
the extent of that boost we still don't know," said Elena
Volovelsky, a labor market analyst for the New York City
Department of Labor.