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NEW YORK CITY-Further symptoms of a building slowdown showed up in the latest edition of the New York City Construction Outlook from the New York Building Congress released this week. That report says nearly 20,000 New York City construction jobs disappeared from August 2008 to March 2009. Overall, the Building Congress reports construction employment was down by nearly 10% compared to the first quarter 2008.

The city’s construction industry normally employs around 123,000 with average payrolls of approaching $14 billion–second to only health care, according to the Building Congress. The Congress says that average earnings for all New York City construction workers topped $68,000 in 2008, up from $57,500 five years earlier in 2003.

Of the job losses, Building Congress president Richard Anderson says, in a statement, that “monthly employment generally peaks each year during the summer and early fall, when the weather is usually warmer and drier. So, it’s not surprising to see first quarter numbers come in relatively low.” But he adds that “our analysis indicates an alarming and accelerating rate of decline that set in over the fall and winter.”

The Building Congress notes that what started as a trickle, 1,600 jobs lost between August and September, “turned into an avalanche as more than 8,000 industry jobs were lost between December and January. But contrary to the negatives, the industry did see a slight increase–1,000 new jobs–between January and March.”

The organization says its not certain whether that slight up-tick is a sign that the industry has reached a bottom, or if this is simply a brief pause in the downward cycle. Regardless, as Globest.com reported April 7, nationwide, unemployment figures in the construction industry were approaching 21% .

According to a report from McGraw Hill Construction titled “Outlook ’09, Spring Update” report, nationwide construction starts for 2009 are estimated at $463.1 billion, down 15%. To New York City, the report said multifamily construction had retreated a modest 6% in 2008 as its level of apartment construction stayed strong– compared to more severe spots like Miami, down 59% or Las Vegas down 57%. But, the report still cautioned that given the upheaval in the financial sector, multifamily housing in New York will experience sharper decline in 2009.

Still, citing the World Trade Center and Bank of America Projects, this past April Dr. Sam Chandan, president of Real Estate Economics told GlobeSt.com, “New York City is in an unusual situation; there’s a lot of progress and long term development, particularly in the office sector, and the duration of a lot of these projects will outlast the recession.” As Chandan said “there are few new projects getting under way because acquisition and construction financing is limited.”

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