Housing’s New Job: Rebuilding the Economy

Here’s something we haven’t heard in the last five years: while government and retail shed jobs, builders continue to add them.

A closer look at the numbers shows a split recovery. While the overall economy added 88,000 jobs in March, three areas lost workers that month: government (7,000), retail (24,000) and manufacturing (3,000). Since the start of 2011, government has shed 391,000 jobs, and millions of workers continue to leave the labor force, according to figures quoted in the Wall Street Journal.

The opposite is happening in the building trades. Reflecting the growing recovery in the U.S. housing market, the construction industry added 18,000 positions in March and a healthy 169,000 since last September. That brings construction’s cumulative gain since 2011 to 367,000, beating the 357,000 gain in manufacturing.

Those figures reflect increasing activity in the market. Privately owned housing starts in February stood at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000, 27.7 percent above the February 2012 rate of 718,000, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Sales of existing homes and condos have also grown, from 4.52 million to 4.98 million over the same period.

While the economy still faces headwinds, housing looks like it’s building a solid foundation for recovery.

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