Md. construction jobs down in 1st half of year

Upturn is expected, suggesting a recovery

October 02, 2002|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

The number of construction jobs in Maryland declined in the first half of the year as the nation struggled with recession, but new jobs should outnumber losses by December, according to a survey released yesterday by two state agencies.

The survey is one in a series planned by the state Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation and the Department of Business & Economic Development.

"Our analysis does not support the view that the sky is falling," said Pradeep Ganguly, chief economist at the business department. "It indicates that if the recovery has not already begun, it is close at hand."

Ganguly said economic experts do not agree on when or whether the nation has emerged from recession because leading indexes are sending conflicting messages from month to month, a common occurrence at the end of a recession. Maryland, which entered the downturn after most of the country, is likely to take a bit longer to recover, he said.

The construction survey was sent to 2,388 contractors in May, and results were based on 629 responses. It asked about employment for December 2001 through May this year and for June through November, excluding seasonal workers.

In the first half of the year, 171 businesses cut 2,019 jobs, 152 added 1,142 jobs and 306 reported no change. The net job loss was 877. Maryland's economy was slowing markedly during that time, although the national economy was showing signs of recovery, the survey leaders said.

In the second half of the year, 23 businesses said they expected to cut 159 jobs, 188 planned to add 1,275 jobs and 418 expected no change. The forecast is for a net job gain of 1,116. The national economy is expected to begin expansion during this time, and the state should follow soon thereafter.

The surveyors attributed the changes to such factors as business costs and availability of labor.

Patrick Arnold, a lead surveyor, said final numbers for construction jobs will not be available until next year. And the impact of other factors remains uncertain.

The biggest uncertainty, he said, is, "Are we going to war?"

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