Construction Employment Climbs To All-Time High On Colorado Homebuilding Surge

Jim Hill/CPR News
A home with a sign advertising it is “for sale” also has another sign that is familiar for buyers in the hot Denver market: “under contract.” December closed with the lowest number of active listings Denver has ever seen.

Almost 10 years after the Great Recession, Colorado homebuilding permits have surged and construction employment has reached a new all-time high.

More than 171,000 are now employed in construction in Colorado, with the state finally surpassing the employment peak from before the recession. The number of construction jobs has risen 54 percent since bottoming out in 2011. That’s helping push wages up as builders are desperate for qualified workers.

Builders received approval for 20,872 new housing units in Colorado through May 2018, a 27 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the Census Bureau. Single family detached homes are leading the way, a good sign since that indicates product for sale rather than for rent.

That’s not to say apartment, and attached housing, construction is slowing. In 2018 so far, 8,348 units received approval for construction, the most since at least 2006.

That’s welcome news for affordability.

The Denver area is in the midst of a supply crisis of for-sale homes. There are few listings currently on the market, which is driving up prices. Any addition of supply will help to relieve the pressure, but don’t expect a major shift. Builders are still well behind their pre-recession levels of construction of single family homes.

The rise of residential construction is coming at a time when commercial projects are slowing. About $2.3 billion in new residential construction has started so far this year. That’s up 10 percent according to Dodge Data and Analytics. Non-residential construction is down more than 50 percent, in terms of dollar value. Some of the large projects from 2017 are still under construction and aren’t counted in Dodge’s numbers.