Neil Struthers, CEO of the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, says the council represents about 30,000 members and that 8,000 to 10,000 are unemployed or underemployed. "I think the number of 17 percent construction unemployment is too low," he says. "We're experiencing, as far as I can tell, a 30 percent unemployment rate in local construction workers."
Robert Aragon has been in the construction industry for 13 years, mostly in flooring. He says in the past four years he has worked about one year total. "I know 50 people at least that are out of work and struggling just like me."
The California Employment Development Department tracks the industry as well. Their data shows construction jobs dropped from 121,900 in August of 2009 to 112,100 in August of 2010. That is a loss of 9,800 jobs or an 8 percent drop in just the last year.
At least on a state level, federal stimulus money on public works projects may be spurring a slight recovery. In the past six months California has added more than 30,000 jobs in the construction industry and EDD reports the Bay Area has seen a bump of 4,700 jobs from March of this year to August.
Janice Shriver , a market analyst with the EDD says, "We were wondering when the slide was going to stop, but it looks like it has because in the last six months we're seeing those numbers in the East Bay, West Bay and South Bay picking up."
So far, Salvador Vela hasn't seen an improvement. He says, "All of a sudden the work has dried up and they let us go and there's nothing out there in the construction industry right now."