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Construction To Rebound, But Slowly

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Construction was one of the sectors most severely affected by the recession in our area--but stimulus funds and a new round of federal building projects are offering some hope.

Between July 2008 and July 2009, the D.C. metro area lost 16,000 construction jobs. But Kathleen McKirchy is optimistic. She is director of the AFL-CIO's community services agency.

"There's gonna be a large amount of recovery act funds spent, some on retrofitting of existing buildings to make them energy efficient, and some on new buildings," says McKirchy.

New federal construction at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Southeast D.C. is the largest since the Pentagon. It will hold new headquarters for the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security. According to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's office, some estimates put the number of jobs created by federal construction at 38,000.

Jon McLean is Senior Fellow at the George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis. "Construction is going to come back," says McLean. "It's in a cycle-- probably in the bottom of its cycle, we may be past bottom, it's gonna be picking up."

But, Mclean says, it's going to be a while--years. On the one hand, new home construction and building permits are up. But the commercial real estate market, the source of many construction jobs, is still in the early stages of a slump. Mclean says it won't be until the general economy improves that construction will truly become a viable sector again.

Sabri Ben-Achour reports...

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