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Construction Jobs Down in Wilmington, but Projects on the Rise

A construction crew uses an auger to drill into the ground at the site of a new Courtyard Marriott hotel in downtown Wilmington.

Construction jobs in Wilmington were down 21 percent in October compared to the same month in 2010.

That’s 1,900 jobs according to a national report released this week from the Associated General Contractors of America, or AGC.

But WHQR’s Michelle Bliss reports that after a deep slump across the Carolinas, commercial construction in all of New Hanover County might be on the road to recovery.

Wilmington residents are hearing the sounds of road repair on Third Street, along with construction around town.

Crews on Grace Street are using a giant auger to drill holes in the earth, which they’ll fill with cement for the foundation of a new hotel.

Despite the current orchestra of construction, North Carolina AGC Spokesperson Dave Simpson is hearing from port city crews that they remain thirsty for work.

“Contractors in the New Hanover County area are telling me that they’re still hurting from a lack of construction work there.”

Dollars spent on construction within city limits did decline between October 2010 and the same month this year, falling from 10 million down to nearly 6.5 million. But they also spiked last month at nearly 19 million.

And New Hanover County Development Director Tony Roberts is seeing a rise in those numbers for projects across the county as a whole.

“We had a significant increase in November over this same time last year, actually about a 119 percent increase; so, that was really big.”

Roberts says that last month, the county issued permits for projects totaling more than 53 million dollars compared to 24 million in November 2010.

And since the fiscal year began in July, he’s also seen a 30 percent year-to-date increase in construction dollars spent across the entire county, including a rise in apartment projects.

“Last year, we had about five permits total for new buildings for apartments or condos. Already at this point, we’ve had nine multi-family projects. So, we’ve already doubled last year.”

Simpson, from the state AGC, says there’s a lag time between issuing those permits and actually getting hardhats and boots on the ground.

“If there’s a 119 percent increase in dollars spent this year, then I would optimistically hope that we would have a corresponding increase of the number of employees in Wilmington for the coming year.”

Simpson also suspects that employment numbers may have declined as work wrapped up on the downtown convention center late last year, which brought in hundreds of jobs at its peak.

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