(WNY) Even as the US slowly recovers from the housing bust brought about by the collapse of home prices beginning in 2006-7, the employment situation for the Buffalo area’s construction industry is not improving. Whereas both NYS and the US as a whole have posted some pretty good 12-month percent changes in construction employment lately, a comparable measure for the Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY metro area is actually in decline (see first chart).
The construction industry employs about 20 thousand people here in the metro area on an annual basis. As the country begins to ramp up construction of new residential housing after a period of depressed activity, the construction industry should be adding employees – not reducing them like we see here locally.
A recovering US housing market – which was “ground zero” to the financial crisis of 2007-8, still offers some hope to the area’s economy, though, because as the market slowly recovers, so too will the country’s economy. A quick glance at the second chart reveals that there is still a long way to go before we claw back to a level of US residential construction even with the average level of construction for the five years prior to the housing boom. While having no direct impact on Buffalo’s employment, an improving US housing market could still be very influential if it produces more economic activity in the US generally, thereby stimulating demand – orders and sales, here locally. This area will unfortunately have to wait for better times elsewhere before it experiences real, sustained economic improvement here.