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Report: Construction jobs picking up in Phoenix, elsewhere in state

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story erroneously identified the associate economist cited in the penultimate and final graphs. His name is Daniel Culbertson. It also erroneously listed the title of David Muehlbauer if Sundt Construction Inc. He is the company's corporate director of learning and performance support.

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PHOENIX – More construction jobs were added in Phoenix than all but two other metro areas during the past year, an industry group reported Thursday.

“This is particularly good news because Phoenix of course has been the epicenter of the construction downturn,” said Brian Turmail, spokesman for The Associated General Contractors of America. “So it’s nice to see the construction employment levels heading in the right direction.”

The group released its analysis at a construction job fair for high school students.

The Phoenix metro area added 6,300 construction jobs between August 2011 and August 2012, reaching 90,800 positions.

Los Angeles and Houston were the only areas that saw a greater rise in construction jobs for the year.

Meanwhile, Tucson added 300 jobs to reach 16,000, while Yuma added 100 to reach 2,200.

For all of Arizona, construction jobs were up by 8,000 to 122,200, a 7 percent increase, the group said.

That’s consistent with data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said construction jobs in Arizona rose by 6.7 percent during the period to 119,000.

Turmail said that Phoenix is outpacing much of the nation because of Intel’s major expansion in Chandler.

“The sad fact is that because the industry has lost so many jobs over the last six years, it really only takes one project to bump up the numbers in a place like Phoenix,” he said.

Arizona has lost more than half of the 244,300 construction jobs that existed in June 2006, according to the report.

David Muehlbauer, corporate director of learning and performance support for Tempe-based Sundt Construction Inc., said he worries that employers will face a shortage of help as construction picks up.

“When the economy really comes back and there’s a bubble of demand, that’s going to impact the ability to get projects built,” he said.

Part of the problem, said William Badger, professor emeritus at Arizona State University’s Del E. Webb School of Construction, is that many undocumented immigrants who worked in construction prior to the recession have left.

“In a free enterprise system,” Badger said. “We make up for the shortage by paying a little more.”

Daniel Culbertson, associate economist for Moody’s Analytics, said that despite the current job growth the state’s construction industry still has a long way to go.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the driving force of Arizona’s economy,” he said.