Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Impact of Recession on One Occupation

No two recessions are alike. One way they differ is the occupations that they affect. The collapse of the dot-com bubble had a serious impact on computer-related jobs but left construction comparatively unscathed. The reverse happened when the housing bubble collapsed. Although the entire economy suffered, the construction industry was particularly damaged.

It will take a few more years for housing demand to catch up with the overbuilding of the bubble years. It will also take awhile for many state and local budgets to recover enough tax revenue to be able to fund repairs and upgrades to infrastructure such as roads and bridges. But the ten-year outlook for construction is good.

One way to look at this is to consider the employment trends affecting construction managers.

The following maps show the percent changes in employment of construction managers. The first map shows the impact of the Great Recession, which was mostly negative: In 28 states, employment shrank. The biggest loser was Alabama, where employment shrank by 47 percent. Only 14 states and the District of Columbia had double-digit growth. The leader was the District of Columbia, with 69 percent growth; just behind was Wyoming, with 64 percent growth.
The second map shows where employment of construction managers has bounced back from recession--and where it continues to stagnate. On balance, the occupation grew during these two years of recovery. Employment continued to shrink in only 16 states, and 24 states had double-digit growth. The leader, West Virginia, saw growth of 126 percent. It's interesting to note that many of the states with the greatest rebounds are in the northern parts of the Central time zone; most of these were not greatly caught up in the housing bubble. The opposite is true of the Sunbelt states.
What about the future prospects of this occupation? The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 16 percent growth from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Here is the discussion from the Occupational Outlook Handbook (soon to be released by JIST Publishing in a new edition that I compiled):

"Construction managers will be needed as overall construction activity expands. Population and business growth will result in the construction of many new residences, office buildings, retail outlets, hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other structures over the coming decade. Also, the need to improve portions of the national infrastructure will spur employment growth as roads, bridges, and sewer pipe systems are upgraded or replaced.

"In addition, a growing emphasis on retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient should create jobs for general contractors, who are more likely to manage the renovation and upgrading of buildings than oversee new large-scale construction projects.

"To ensure that projects are completed on time and under budget, firms are increasingly focusing on hiring construction managers. Furthermore, construction processes and building technology are becoming more complex, requiring greater oversight and spurring demand for specialized management personnel. Sophisticated technology, worker safety, environmental protection, and new regulations setting standards for building and construction material also will drive employment growth.

"Job opportunities for qualified construction managers are expected to be good. Specifically, those with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering, coupled with construction experience, will have the best job prospects.

"Although employment growth will provide many new jobs, a substantial number of construction managers are expected to retire over the next decade, resulting in additional job openings.

"Employment of construction managers, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. On the one hand, workers in the construction industry may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, peak periods of building activity may produce abundant job opportunities for construction managers."

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