How hurricanes affect construction jobs

There will be lots of work.
There will be lots of work.
Image: AP Photo/LM Otero
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The damage brought by Hurricane Harvey has upended the lives of thousands of Texans and continues to wreak havoc on their communities. Rebuilding will take time, but with it will likely come a slew of construction jobs, as roads, buildings, and homes get needed repairs in the coming months.

It’s a trend that has shown itself in the most devastating hurricanes to hit the US in recent decades: the storm lands and in the following months construction jobs grow faster than the national average.

Construction jobs after Hurricane Katrina

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, construction jobs grew at a slower pace than the national average but five months in, the state was seeing year-over-year gains of four percentage points or more.

Overall, Louisiana gained 7,800 construction jobs in the year following Katrina’s landfall, an increase of 6.4%.

Construction jobs after Hurricane Ike

After Hurricane Ike, the third most damaging hurricane in US history, hit Texas in September 2008, year-over-year construction job growth in the state significantly beat the national average for over a year.

However, beating the national average only gets you so far. Ike hit right before the housing bubble of the 2000s burst. So while thousands of homebuilders were losing their jobs across the country, construction workers in Texas were losing them less quickly. In total, over the year, 94,600 construction jobs were lost in Texas.

Construction jobs after Hurricane Sandy

Late in 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the New York City metro area. What happened afterwards shows that it can take more than a hurricane alone to spur construction work. While year-over-year construction-job growth rate was positive in New York for each of the 12 months following Sandy, it wasn’t much better the the national average, which itself was just starting to recover from the 2009 crisis. On the other hand, New Jersey grew construction jobs for 10 of the 12 months, bested the national average for eight, and was significantly beating it six months after the storm. A harsh winter following the storm coupled with delayed and then slowly doled out federal assistance likely kept construction activity down.

Again, the growth rate doesn’t tell the whole story. New York’s sheer size means that even with its strong year-over-year growth rate, New Jersey added just 9,800 construction jobs in the 12 months following Sandy, compared to 16,700 for New York.