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  • Writer's picturechris

How bad is it out there?

Digging around in the data vaults of the FED, just a quick look at the annual (trailing) change in construction jobs since 1940 – The war years show the massive build-up of labor to build production infrastructure to support the war, then an equally massive drop as the forces were mobilized abroad. Employment recovered during the war, (led by women entering the workforce) and reached a peak again in the years after as new infrastructure was built to support rebuilding Europe and Asia, as well as supporting and employing our returning veterans.

The oil price shocks in the 1970’s caused 2 construction labor recessions among many other effects – gas prices at the pump went from $0.36/gallon to a $1.17/gallon or more, if you could get any.

The early 90’ recession was the painful longer term result of an earlier boom that led to the savings and loan crisis, and a glut of office space and other real estate.

The biggest drop post WW2 was the housing crash in 2008 – the staggeringly bad news in the papers every day for months was brutal – and the effects of the damaged credit markets led to large declines in construction. Construction jobs didn’t return to the mean for almost 5 years.

Our current situation is different of course, but the dip in jobs was brief, and the construction work force is back roughly to where it was pre-pandemic. On an interesting note – construction jobs for women showed a smaller decline, and a better recovery, on a percentage basis, than the overall construction jobs numbers. Either women’s jobs are somewhat protected by social pressures, and job requirements to maintain minority and womens staffing levels, or they were lower wage workers, and thus less expensive to keep, or perhaps they are better workers?

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