Area Home Building Pace Has Slowed

From the Orlando Sentinel: "The phone has been ringing lately at Terry's Electric in Kissimmee, and many of the calls have been from electricians looking for work now that home building in the area has started to slacken.

Terry's, with about 550 employees, is happy to snap them up because the company is still busy with commercial-construction jobs, wiring schools and mixed-use developments across Central Florida.

Residential construction is slowing here and across the country, and layoffs have been thinning the ranks of home builders everywhere, raising fears of a job bust that could ripple through the rest of the economy. But the commercial side of the construction business is helping to buffer the downturn.

"The housing souffle has finished baking and is out of the oven and cooling quickly," said Sean Snaith, the UCF economist who heads the institute.

"There is some softening on the condo side, but the commercial side is strong -- for hospitals, large-box retailers, schools, infrastructure," said Gary Redwine, senior vice president of Resource, Acquisition and Management Services, a Tampa-based construction employment-and-training company known as RAMS.

"Most nonresidential-construction people say the labor market is tight," even with the home-building slowdown, said Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America. "They still have a hard time finding qualified workers and subcontractors."

Nationally, the outlook for commercial construction is strong for hotels and resorts, hospitals and health-care facilities, schools, and water and sewer projects, said Simonson, the industry economist.

"Retail construction will suffer, along with home building," he said, but overall, "unemployment remains low, and construction workers in general should be able to find jobs."

Some skills, such as concrete finishing, plumbing, wiring, and heating and ventilation, are transferable from residential to commercial jobs to some degree, Simonson said. Specialty carpentry jobs are not as easily transferred, and not all subcontractors have the size, or "scale," to work commercial projects when residential contracts dry up, he added."