| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES May 3 When the U.S. economy crashed
in 2008, following the implosion of the housing market, Dave
Klein's southern California construction company almost folded.
Overnight, he went from employing 40 construction workers to
four. Some returned home to El Salvador, others to Mexico.
Several left the state to find work in pork and chicken
factories in the Midwest.
But in the past two months, Klein says, some of them have
returned as he has started hiring again - moves that reflect a
recent trend in the U.S. construction industry as the American
economy continues to pick up steam.
"There is a little bit more money out there and there are a
lot of apartments being built," Klein said. "So things are
getting a little better. Some of these guys went into the
restaurant industry, but they are coming back. Or friends of
The U.S. construction industry saw its largest gain in jobs
since the start of this year, and the highest number since 2009,
according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics on Friday.
The construction sector added 32,000 jobs in April, the
fourth straight month of gains over which 124,000 building site
jobs have been created. The gains were part of an unexpectedly
bright jobs report which saw the overall unemployment rate drop
from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent as U.S. employers added 288,000
jobs in April, well above estimates.
The construction industry was obliterated in the wake of the
housing crash. Of the 8.2 million jobs lost during the Great
Recession, 2.3 million were in construction, according to the
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In April 2006, there were over 7.7 million construction
jobs. By April 2011, the number was under 5.4 million. Now it is
back up to 6 million, still a long way below the pre-recession
boom, but on an upward tick.
Yet the demand in construction jobs is not just being met by
former workers returning to the fold, according to company
bosses and industry analysts. Many of these former workers have
been lost forever, forcing companies to hire and train new,
Jeff Dworkin, who runs a construction company in Dallas,
said in his region a lot of carpenters and joiners left the
country after the crash, or moved to the Gulf oil fields where
the work was plentiful and the money is good.
"So we're seeing folks being added to the industry but most
are brand new and require lots of training," Dworkin said. "What
we are seeing are new hires who have no experience in electrics
The National Association of Homebuilders said last month
that builders in several parts of America are concerned about a
lack of skilled labor, because so many construction workers
found new careers in the past six years.
Others never left the industry but spent much of the past
six years looking for work.
Bill Simpson, a superintendent for Los Angeles-based Hill
Construction, said he started to get busy again about a year
"But there were weeks when we didn't have work at all. I was
basically on the phone each night scrounging for work."
At the height of the construction boom, it was single-family
homes that provided most of the work. Now new residential
construction is dominated by apartments being built for renters,
reflecting the growth in renting and decline in homeownership
rates, according Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia, an
online real estate data firm.
"There is a construction boom in many metro areas, and it is
overwhelmingly multiunit buildings for rent," Kolko said.
(Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)