Beau Yarbrough, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/04/2013 07:35:49 PM PST
Updated: 01/04/2013 10:53:12 PM PST

Friday’s unemployment figures from the Labor Department showed modest job growth in December – 155,000 new jobs – but strong gains in the hard-hit construction sector, a vital employment sector in the Inland Empire.

Economists credit most of the 30,000 new construction jobs – the biggest jump in 15 months – to the northeast rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but even in the Inland Empire, the industry is recovering, observers said.

“It’s going great,” said Terry Kent, the president of the Building Industry Association’s Baldy View chapter. “We’ve seen an uptick in more buyers out there. I think they realize that prices have bottomed out and are on the way back up.”

In his day job, Kent works for Glendora-based
Construction of Beazer Homes along the 9600 block of Sixth Street in Rancho Cucamonga. (Gabriel Luis Acosta/Staff Photographer)
homebuilders Crestwood Communities, which built dozens of new houses in 2012 as the state’s economy turned around.

“We actually have a tract in Rancho Cucamonga that we’ve started building phase three (of), four months ahead schedule, due to buyer demand,” Kent said.

New construction is happening, according to him, because the backlog of new houses built during the housing bubble are no longer flooding the market.

“There’s a shortage of inventory out there and traffic has definitely picked up at our communities,” Kent said. “From a builder’s standpoint, buyers are definitely out there right now.”

And after several slow years, that’s translated into a need for more skilled workers for Crestwood Communities.

“We’ve stayed alive for the past five years, but we’ve added staff in the last 12 months … which is better than the direction we were headed in, in the last few years,” Kent said.

And there are likely more jobs out there than construction workers in Southern California, at the moment.

“From a contractor’s standpoint, there’s a shortage of labor out there,” Kent said. “A lot of them left California for jobs elsewhere.”

Not all segments of the construction industry suffered equally during the recession: Governmental and industrial construction typically remained healthy over the past few years, along with apartments and other multi-family housing units.

But now single-family home construction – which was devastated when the housing bubble burst – may be on the way back.

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