Phila. third in U.S. in new construction jobs

Standing amid scaffolding and building materials at the AQ Rittenhouse apartment and retail project in Center City on Wednesday, Stephen Pouppirt, president of Clemens Construction Co. Inc., almost couldn't keep count of all the major projects his company is handling this summer.

"A lot of projects," he said, "Maybe 20, four major ones, and we have many in the queue."

Pouppirt's contracts, including several in Center City, are part of what is ranking the Philadelphia metropolitan division third nationally in the number of construction jobs added in a year, according to a trade group's analysis of Labor Department numbers.

Philadelphia, along with Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties, has added 8,500 construction jobs from July to July. Only Houston and Dallas have added more.

"It's been too long since we had news like this to report in Philadelphia," said Brian Turmail, national spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America - contractors who generally employ union workers.

For example, Pouppirt's company will employ, at peak, 100 to 120 building trade workers at the AQ Rittenhouse Apartment project being developed by Aquinas Realty Partners of Havertown. The project, a 12-story building at 2021 Chestnut St., includes 110 apartments and street-level retail.

Philadelphia's deputy mayor for economic development, Alan Greenberger, said that the young-adult generation's desire to live in the city is fueling growth - both in residential and in commercial development as businesses "are locating here to be near talent."

The picture wasn't as pretty in September 2008.

"The fall of 2008 was like falling off a cliff," Pouppirt recalled.

In two weeks, his Philadelphia-based company lost $130 million worth of business - four major contracts that would have employed hundreds. He cut his office staff below half to 15 and kept just a handful of building trades workers employed.

Now his office staff is back up to 35 and he can't even estimate how many construction workers are on the job at all his projects. Business started to pick up in 2013, he said.

The Associated General Contractors' analysis of the numbers showed that construction jobs in the area grew 12.5 percent, faster than job growth in all other sectors.

There are many ways to analyze the statistics.

Although construction jobs grew the fastest, they are a relatively small category of work in the region - 76,700 jobs in July compared with 428,900 in health and education - the "eds and meds" sector that employs the most people.

Year over year, payrolls in education and health expanded by 12,100 jobs, at a growth rate of just below 3 percent.

Meanwhile, government hiring fell by nearly 5 percent, declining by 9,200 jobs. Even so, 192,400 people had jobs in government in July compared with 76,700 in construction.

Construction hiring has also picked up in Camden, Gloucester and Burlington Counties, with payrolls up by 600 jobs to 22,200 in July from 21,600 a year earlier, the U.S. Labor Department reported.



Philadelphia's national rank in construction job growth.


Construction jobs added in a year in Philadelphia and nearby counties in Pennsylvania.


Growth in construction jobs.


Area building jobs that had been lost since 2006.

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