Construction Work Force

Discussing federal stimulus spending yesterday, a colleague and I were pondering how the New Mexico economy might go about absorbing the money the feds want to pump into it. One key question is the availability of a work force with the skills to build stuff.

Some numbers, courtesy St. Louis Fed. The drop from the peak last spring to November (the latest data available) is 2,500. Data’s seasonally adjusted.

No idea what this means, whether 2,500 is a lot. Just thinking out loud. Plus, I think playing with the Fed data is fun.

One Comment

  1. That’s an interesting question, John, particularly in the context of the chart. Looks like, in the near-term, 60,000 is some kind of practical ceiling on the number of people employed in the construction industry. Unclear whether the limiting factor is available, qualified manpower, or available construction equipment or contracts, but it’s been bouncing of 60K for a few years. If the number of warm bodies is the limit, I suspect that could change if more work became available. If the construction resource (either available projects or available equipment) are the limits, it will take longer to ramp up.

    Also, reading possibly too much into that data, it seems to be slightly cyclic on six monthly intervals (there’s a pre-winter dip and a slightly smaller dip in the middle of the year). Now, there’s a possibility that the current economic conditions mean that something which is a reasonable indicator of economic activity, like the construction industry (stuff doesn’t get built unless you have the funds and have confidence it will be needed in the future), might skip a cycle or two and in 6-12 months there’ll be the dip that was 08-09. Caused in part, by accepting economic stimulus.

    On a related note, and I’ve been trying to collect some numbers to write more coherently about this, this chart shows, again, that the current decreases of employment numbers and various dollar values is to something akin to the state of play three or four years ago. And a lot better than things were 6 – 8 years, in adjusted numbers by some measurements. That doesn’t necessarily equate to “everybody should shut up and enjoy the spoils”, since, in the interim, lots of things have happened, whether deliberately or unintentionally, that make rewinding to 2005 difficult to impossible in a large number of cases. I’ve seen a lot more US data than, say, Australian data lately, since you guys are better at collating and releasing publicly collected data like that, and it’s only been a hunch until I started collecting more. But it’s interesting to think about.

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