By Candace Kelley
After a year 4,600 construction jobs in New Jersey are gone. That’s according to a recent report from the trade group Associated General Contractors of America. New Jersey saw the biggest drop in construction jobs in the country from March 2013 to to this past March. If you’re in the construction business you don’t know how long a job will last.
“When the economy is up, construction is up. When the economy is down, construction is down,” said construction worker Jesse Thomas.
No single problem caused these job losses. Business experts like James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planing and Public Policy at Rutgers University, but major rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy, just didn’t happen.
“It’s because of red tape, the difficultly of getting approvals, uncertainly of whether you are in the flood zone or not in the flood zone. Slowing of federal funding for the rescue package,” Hughes said.
And then there was that snow.
“It’s been an unbelievable winter. A very cold winter. Lost lasting,” said construction worker Kevin Gokey.
“I think some of the construction firms said, ‘Let’s wait until we finally see signs of spring and then we will get going,'” Hughes said.
Hughes also links job growth in construction with the overall growth of New Jersey. He says that over the past three decades, the state’s population has been growing very slowly.
“When you have slow population growth, you have slower growth in housing demand, slower growth in housing construction and the like compared to say North Carolina or Texas,” said Hughes.
But there is some good news for those in construction. Winter is finally over. That means better working conditions and New Jersey has several construction projects in the works.
“There’s going to be a big power plant in Casey, New Jersey. We have an Arizona Iced Tea place in Raritan Center. You have a building right around the corner here at the college,” said construction worker Carl Zimmermann.
“We have a lot of multi-family housing rentals in the pipeline in places like Jersey City and these are big 60-story type buildings,” Hughes said.
And there is anticipation about building efforts at colleges and universities.
“We also have the higher education bond issue which passed last year. Some of that construction has started. Rutgers has several projects going on the College Avenue Campus,” said Hughes.
After the bitter cold, Hughes projects spring will bring about a thaw. And that could make construction numbers grow.