While it may seem obvious to anyone who has lived or worked in The City That Never Sleeps, over the past decade New York City has also become The City That Never Stops Growing. And a recent report published by the office of the State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, puts that abstract idea into concrete numbers.
For instance, the eye-popping 398,00 jobs added between 2010-2018. This has pushed the number of construction workers employed in NYC well past their competition for most in the nation. Last year, 36% more construction workers could be found in The City than in the metropolitan area with the second largest construction sector, Houston.
After a post-collapse downturn of 15 percent, New York State – and NYC in particular – has bounced back better than anyone (other than maybe New Yorkers) could have been imagined: the industry is 11% larger than it was pre-recession, with NYC growing at a rate 73% better than that.
Although total building permits were down slightly last year, the total number of those issued for “major renovations” increased 7% and set a new record. There are projections for lowered spending over the next few years. However, given the massive increase in capital spending planned over the next ten years, public works seem poised to sustain growth over the next decade.
And unlike most post-crisis recovery, success has not been disproportionately concentrated, with growth distributed throughout the sector and society: 89% of construction firms employ 20 or fewer people. And those companies employ last than 100 individuals account for 68% of the total number of jobs in the industry.
The jobs being found are well-paying ones, as well. The report cites the average worker salary at $80,200 – which comes out to $11.9 billion total in wages – a number strong enough to make it the fourth highest-paying employment sector in NYC, all while generating $84 billion in economic activity. That’s 10% of NYC’s total.
As such, it’s entirely unsurprising that there are now a record number of construction workers in the five boroughs, which, at 157,800, is almost 20% higher than at the beginning of the decade. Queens has added the most jobs (13,500,) while Staten Island has seen the largest growth, at 78%. Whether that growth is sustainable is obviously a bit of a concern – Staten Island, for instance, has seen a large boom in construction following Sandy, but at some point most of the area will be rebuilt and there may be a “market correction” — leading indicators seem to point towards a shift in priorities for growth, as opposed to a larger slowdown.
All of this has been done while the workforce in NYC has been increasingly diverse, with 59% of jobs being held by immigrants. This far, far outpaces the workforce composition at the state and national levels, while also offering a chance for those workers of all backgrounds without a college a real chance for a chance at sustainable, lifetime employment at a living wage. And although growth in this area has been relatively slow, women now account for nearly 10% of the workforce.
There is always work to be done, and always a balance that must be struck between growth, sustainability and worker safety, but given the goods produced over the last ten years, it seems fair to say that the future in construction is so bright, you’ll probably want to wear shades (and definitely some sort of protective eyewear on the jobsite.)