More construction jobs in Portland this fall

More construction jobs in Portland this fall
File photo

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Local construction employment is higher in early fall than in recent years, according to Oregon Employment Department figures.

In the Portland area in September, construction employment rose nearly 4 percent from a year earlier, with a non-seasonally adjusted 52,100 jobs, compared to 50,200 a year ago.

But the employment trends vary by the kind of construction.

The biggest increases for construction jobs came for specialty trade contractors, which rose 6 percent, adding 2,000 jobs, and residential building, which was up more than 8 percent and added about 500 jobs, as contributing writer Jon Bell notes in his Nov. 2 article on hiring.

At only 5,700 jobs in September, Portland-area employment in heavy and civil engineering construction was nearly 11 percent lower than in September 2011, as work on stimulus projects ran its course.

One example of a specialty trade contractor seeing an uptick is Gresham-based H&L Corp. steel erectors.

“Just in the last two months we tripled our payroll,” President Colleen Runyon told Bell. She was referring to her Oct. 7 payroll of 34 employees.

Many jobs in that sector are temporary, however. At a union shop like H&L, the company lets the union know how many workers it needs and when, so H&L’s payroll goes up and down throughout the year. Runyon said the company’s payroll was down to 20 employees as of Oct. 23, and was heading toward single digits.

That said, the 34 employees as of Oct. 7 marked H&L’s highest employment level in the past two years.

Mike Salsgiver, executive director of Associated General Contractors Oregon-Columbia Chapter, said several large construction projects that are winding down — Intel Corp.’s $3 billion D1X fab and the new Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center, both in Hillsboro — would negatively impact job counts in the metro region. However, Intel’s Oct. 24 announcement that it would add a second phase to D1X, about doubling its size, sparked optimism. So has the spate of data center construction in Oregon, including T5 Data Centers plans for a 200,000-square-foot server farm on 15 acres in Hillsboro.

Dave Nielsen, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, said the residential rise coincides directly with an improving year for homebuilding, which has seen a 40 percent increase in permit activity this year.

“I can’t speak directly for larger subs, but I do think they are out there looking for quality labor,” he said.

The Portland Business Journal is a KATU News partner.