State's increase in construction jobs tempered by context

Sector sees 12.6% growth from January 2011 to January 2012

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has released statistics showing Tennessee’s job growth in the mining, logging and construction sector grew 12.6 percent from January 2011 to January 2012.

In comparison, the other 14 industry sectors the bureau tracks typically saw January to January growth of no more than about 2.5 percent, with two sectors (non-durable goods and wholesale trade) experiencing dips.

David Penn, director of the Middle Tennessee State University Business and Economic Research Center, said the major jump in the mining, logging and construction sector must be kept in context.

“The level of employment in this sector had dropped so low that it didn’t take a major increase in jobs to show a large growth rate,” he said.

“The lion’s share of this increase is driven by construction,” Penn added. “We’ve seen double-digit increases in housing permits, especially in this area.”

In addition, the relatively mild weather this past November, December and January may have led to construction starts (and, thus, the percentage increases for those months compared to their corresponding months from the previous year) that might not have otherwise happened at that point, he said.

Penn said the mining, logging and construction sector’s employment numbers are at levels seen in the mid-1990s. The sector bottomed out in 2010.

“We still have a long way to go, but it’s better than ekeing along,” he said of the 12.6 percent increase. “The increases have been steady [from month to month].”