Generally speaking, it's not a good time to be in the construction business right now. Most people are well aware of the effect the economy has had on the building industry. People can't afford to build or remodel their homes, and many large building companies have laid off workers or reduced hours as business has slowed to a crawl. In what may be a major understatement, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted "the constructing industry has been strongly affected by the credit crisis."
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How times have changed. Just two years ago, construction laborers were so in demand, they made it to CareerBuilder's list of America's 10 Most Wanted Workers. But while things may not be so great for the industry overall, there are definitely some regional variations. Here are the states where things look best for construction workers right now. (Find out which states are the best for an education career in Best States For Teachers.)
The Sooner State seems to be a good place to be if you're in the construction business. According to Reed Construction Data, Oklahoma's economy has fared better than many other cities during the recession, and the construction industry continues to add jobs. Oklahoma City seems to be a particularly good choice for people in this trade.
"We are a right-to-work state with market expansion for construction expected to be at 48%," says Jill Harrison, manager of public relations and image development for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. "We have a low cost of living and our personal income growth is outpacing the national average. But most importantly, we have a major amount of construction happening, so opportunities are abundant. We just passed a $777 million economic development package that will build a new convention center and 70-acre park among other things."
Other parts of the state seem to be doing well in this area, too. Lawton, Oklahoma was among the cities with the largest increase in building permits from 2008 to 2009, according to the Census Bureau.
This state is somewhat of a mixed bag for construction workers. Those who are working are making a good paycheck. For example, according to Prevailing Wage data, compiled by Illinois Department of Labor, laborers in Cook County make an average of $35.20 an hour, plus benefits.
However, Illinois was among the five states with the largest decrease in the number of building permits from 2008 to 2009. That means hiring has slowed compared to what it was in the recent past. (Some dangerous jobs have obvious risks, but these careers carry unexpected hazards. Find out more in 6 Surprisingly Dangerous Jobs.)
The construction industry as a whole has taken its lumps here, just as in most other places across the nation, but there are signs that things are starting to look up. According to McGraw-Hill Construction, Florida saw a 2% increase in the overall value of new construction contracts signed in April compared to a year before - with residential contracts jumping 47%. Year-to-date, overall contract activity is still 5% behind the 2009 levels, but the residential sector has seen a dramatic upswing in activity over the past few months.
Florida is one of the two states with the highest average hourly pay rate for construction workers. Thanks to Florida's warm weather, construction workers there also don't need to worry about seasonal layoffs, as their colder weather counterparts do.
This state was ranked number one in 2009 building permit activity, according to Census Bureau figures. The Dallas area in particular seems to be experiencing a major growth in construction activity. The Dallas Morning News reported this week that arts-related construction alone has led to a building boom, with 87 arts-related groups in North Texas spending around $183 million on new construction and renovation.
Meanwhile, El Paso showed a 3% increase in construction employment in June of this year compared to June 2009, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. (What are the economic signs that will point the way to a better housing market? Find out in 5 Factors To Watch In A Housing Recovery.)
This state was tied with Florida for the highest hourly rates for construction workers, according to Payscale.com. And the Hanford-Corcoran area topped the AGC list of areas with construction employment growth, showing a 22% increase from a year ago. Also, construction workers seem to have some powerful allies in state government - such as the Labor Commissioner's Office, which coordinated a settlement in July that led to $2.1 million in wages being awarded to workers involved in a construction project at a San Diego hospital.
The Bottom Line
Like many other industries, the construction sector has been hard hit by the recession. But for construction workers who choose their locations wisely, there are still jobs - and good paychecks - to be had.
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