Monday, May 28, 2012

Construction industry showing pulse

Maracay Homes project manager Brandon McArthur checks construction of a new Maracay home in Buckeye's Verrado subdivision. The Scottsdale builder plans to open five more communities by the second quarter of 2013.
Mark Henle/The Republic Maracay Homes project manager Brandon McArthur checks construction of a new Maracay home in Buckeye's Verrado subdivision. The Scottsdale builder plans to open five more communities by the second quarter of 2013.



The Great Recession swung a wrecking ball through Arizona's construction industry, but this key sector -- with some help from rising consumer spending and stronger home prices -- has begun to recover.

Residential- and commercial-construction jobs long have been the backbone of the state economy, which traditionally has relied on spending from new residents to help create jobs.

As shoppers gradually spend more at stores and return to car dealerships, they also have begun to spend on housing. Home prices are up, and owners are making repairs and upgrades.

Many of the new construction jobs are in specialty trades, such as plumbing and drywall, state economist Aruna Murthy said.

The construction industry has a lot of rebuilding ahead. It lost 74,600 jobs in 2009 and 2010, according to state figures. It gained 200 jobs in 2011 and is forecast to gain 5,900 this year, she said.

Job growth

Arizona's April jobless rate was 8.2 percent, down from 8.6 percent from March. The state jobless rate is higher than the U.S. unemployment rate in April -- 8.1 percent -- but Arizona's is falling at a faster clip. In April, Arizona had 46,000 more jobs than it had in the same month the year before.

Jobless claims

The number of workers who filed for jobless benefits for the first time fell in March by more than 3,000 compared with the same month in 2011, an 11 percent decline. For three years in a row, March first-time jobless claims have fallen. It's a sign that the pace of layoffs has slowed.

Motor-vehicle sales

February car and truck sales, which are reported in March, were brisk in Arizona. Dealers rang up $515 million in sales, up nearly 16 percent from February 2011. Vehicle sales through 2011 surpassed 2010 numbers every month. Strong 2012 sales may repeat that trend.

Retail sales

Arizona shoppers continued gradually to spend more money. February sales, which are reported in March, climbed to $4 billion. That figure is 7 percent higher than what consumers spent during February 2011. Consumer spending is closely watched, because it helps generate jobs.

Gasoline prices

The price of a gallon of fuel fell 7 cents in April, to $3.83, after three months of increases. That's slightly higher than the national average of $3.80. This chart shows the average statewide gas price in AAA Arizona's April fuel report; it doesn't include any price fluctuations since that time.

by Jahna Berry - May. 19, 2012 02:11 PM The Republic | azcentral.com




Construction industry showing pulse

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