The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy
Business & Economy

Los Angeles area adds third highest number of construction jobs in the US

Construction on Coldwater Canyon Avenue.
Construction on Coldwater Canyon Avenue.
Mary Plummer/KPCC

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Los Angeles came in third among metropolitan areas adding the most new construction jobs in the last year, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.  The L.A.-Long Beach-Glendale area added 9,400 jobs since April 2012 - a nearly 10 percent increase over last year.

It was beat out by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Tex., with 11,500 jobs, and Houston-Sugarland-Baytown, Tex.,  both of which added about 11,400 jobs.

"The California Market in general is coming out of a very long economic downturn, and it’s coming out of it very slowly," says Tom Holsman, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of California.  "The Los Angeles area is coming out of it better."

Holsman said the bump is due to major infrastructure projects at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, improvements to the 405 freeway, and school construction projects with the Los Angeles Unified School District.   

The rebound of the housing market is helping too, according to economist Kimberly Ritter-Martinez of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

With the jump in prices, building new homes is becoming more profitable, which encourages new construction, she said. That, she said, has  implications beyond the construction industry.

"You’re putting homebuilders back to work, but you’re also creating jobs for people who make appliances and who make flooring and window treatments and home furnishings,"  Ritter –Martinez said.

Holsman, of Associated General Contractors, said he's seen an increase in both single family and multi-family complex construction.

"If you drive down La Cienega Boulevard or La Brea south of Sunset, you’re going to see construction going up for multi-family dwelling at a pace  that you haven’t seen in ten years,"  Holsman said.

Still, both experts said  call that the total number of construction jobs in the L.A. area remains far below its pre-recession peak.  Ritter-Martinez said the L.A. area construction market peaked at 157,600 jobs in 2007.  In the first 3 months of 2013, the average was  113,800 jobs, about 30 percent down from that high.