Anyone who lives, visits or works in New York City knows that construction is booming. But looks can be deceiving, even to seasoned New Yorkers. Some statistics provided by the New York City Economic Development Commission tell the more nuanced story.
It turns out that construction is indeed booming when compared to 2013. The number of construction starts has increased by 21 percent, from 5,927 in 2013 to 7,143 in 2014. However, that number is still less than July 2004, before the economic downturn. This year’s number is still 12 percent smaller than the number of construction starts in the five boroughs in 2004 – 8,145.
This may seem like bad news for construction workers and the construction industry in general. However, even though the number of projects is still smaller than it was ten years ago, the projects are larger in size. In July of 2004, there were 38,054,000 square feet under construction. In July of 2014, there were 42,268,700 square feet, an increase of 2,336,700 square feet or 11 percent. And that number represents a six percent increase in square feet under construction over 2013.
Additionally, the value of the construction projects has gone up significantly – by 25 percent from 2013 to 2014 alone. Although this reflects some inflationary activity, it is also tied to the increase in total square footage under construction as well as the large number of luxury building projects that have started in recent years.
What does all this good news mean for construction workers? First, their chances of finding good jobs have improved. They will be able to provide for their families. Second, the growing employment in the construction industry is good for the city’s economy in many different ways. Third, increased construction activity does come at a price. Despite the protections offered by New York’s stringent labor laws such as the Scaffold Law, more employees will be injured if employers and owners do not take the proper steps to protect workers.
Next year’s statistics will show whether the industry was able to sustain this level of growth without adding to another statistic – the number of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry.