It has been six years since Scott Roark had a job doing what he wanted to do.
Roark, 48, who lives in Johns Creek, was an estimator – the person who calculates construction costs for homebuilders. Laid off in 2007 as the housing market crashed, he went back to school, worked part-time jobs and finally got a position doing data entry.
Two months ago, he was again hired as an estimator: This time for Windsong Properties in Woodstock. “I don’t have to work multiple jobs anymore,” he said.
This year’s mild rebound in home construction means more hiring - and not just of people like Roark who are directly connected to building. Hiring linked to homebuilding runs through everything from law offices to the local Home Depot.
INTERACTIVE MAP: See how housing permits have changed in metro Atlanta
About 11,200 single-family homes are expected to go up around Atlanta this year – 3,000 more starts than last year, according to Eugene James, Atlanta regional director of Metrostudy, a national real estate research firm. Multiply Roark’s story by a few tens of thousands and you’ve got a wide-angle group portrait of construction’s impact.
The housing bubble’s burst nearly six years ago turned housing from an accelerant to an anchor on growth. And while building now is nowhere near the frenzy of the boom years, the pace has picked up as existing housing inventory dwindles and the broader economy slowly heals.
“There is just so much energy, so much pent-up demand,” said Chip Perschino, vice president of construction at Edward Andrews Homes.
Warren Jolly, president of the Providence Group of Georgia, said his company has hired about 20 people in the past year.
“We started seeing things change last March - slowly,” he said.
Eric Price, chief operating officer of Traton Homes, said the 60-employee company had expected to do about 20 closings a month. Instead, Traton is on a pace to do 40.
That means adding staff, he said. “I hired five or six people in the last six months.”
Those are just direct employees. Builders typically hire subcontractors who in turn, hire crews of workers for cement-pouring, framing, roofing and the other hands-on missions that turn an empty lot into a home.
For most of those workers, each house is a temporary job. They typically do their part in a few weeks and move on to the next one. But on average, each new home built in metro Atlanta creates a little over three jobs in the local economy, according to a study by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders.
The impact reaches into related sectors as well.
The study estimates that building 100 houses supports 151 construction jobs. But it also supports 43 jobs in the wholesale and retail sector, 22 jobs in bars and restaurants and 24 jobs in health and education.
Other services are propped up, too: Real estate attorney Randy McMichael of McMichael & Gray, said his 20-person firm has doubled in the past six months.
“The new construction has been good news for us,” he said. “We get to hire more people and expand our business.”
The firm has offices in Buckhead, Lawrenceville and Alpharetta. It will soon open a fourth in Dunwoody, he said.
All told, the number of new homes in metro Atlanta expected this year would translate to 34,037 jobs this year, according to the homebuilders’ study.
Construction’s impact then would represent a large part of overall growth: The metro area is projected to add about 46,300 jobs this year, according to the Georgia State University Economic Forecasting Center.
While home sales in general are a plus for the economy, the purchase of an existing home provides less economic pop than the building and sale of a new one.
Of course, when things are bad, any kind of ripple runs in reverse. Metro Atlanta’s reliance on housing and commercial development in the mid-2000s is a big reason the region suffered more than many in the bust.
When home-building virtually ceased, so did the local demand for bricks, said Paul Samples, vice president of Roswell-based Boral Bricks. The company – fortunately – had business elsewhere where the bust was not as drastic, but even so the ripple effect was painful.
“We took our head count down about 40 percent, from peak to trough,” he said.
At its pre-recession crest, Boral had 180 tractor-trailers and drivers, Samples said. “That went as low as 44. Now it’s 70.”
Housing permits for single-family homes, metro Atlanta
The current surge in housing looks pretty weak compared to the red-hot years before the housing bust. But the numbers are growing again.
Source: Census Bureau, Department of Commerce