The U.S. Labor Department last month announced that the
nation lost a net total of 4,000 jobs in August, the first
time employment had shrunk since August 2003.
“We did not expect a report as awful as
this,” Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at
the consulting firm High Frequency Economics told The
Not surprisingly, the slumping housing market took a big
employment hit. The Labor Department reported that 22,000
people in the construction business lost their jobs in
August. The number puts the building sector 96,000 off its
peak of September 2006.
The dip in construction jobs across the Southwest Sun
Belt, a key pool market, were especially steep. The Arizona
Department of Economic Security is predicting 14,500 job
losses in construction through 2008.
“It’s clear now that the industry is
decelerating and paring down,” said Don Wehbey,
senior economist at the Arizona Department of Economic
Security. “Where we are is clearly a downward
cycle. We didn’t see the bottoming out like this
six months ago.”
Edward Fletcher of Paddock Pool Construction Co. in
Scottsdale, Ariz., estimated that business statewide is
down approximately 40 percent this year.
“It’s not like it was in 2006 and
several years before, said Fletcher, the vice president of
commercial projects at the Pool & Spa News
The economic forecast for California, meanwhile, is no
better. The UCLA Anderson Forecast expects construction
payrolls in the Golden State to be trimmed.
“Overall, our forecast is that California is in
for at least another year of these economic doldrums, with
rising unemployment, weak job growth and a slowdown in all
broad indicators,” stated the latest report, which
was released in September.
Economist Ryan Ratcliff, author of the UCLA report,
predicted this fall’s construction woes in July,
when he warned that the U.S. economy wasn’t
slipping into recession yet, “but it is
close.” The Anderson Forecast stated that the
American economy is going through a “near
The latest spate of discouraging economic news has put
employers into a holding pattern. A September survey by
Milwaukee-based Manpower Inc. shows that 58 percent of
employers expect no change in hiring from now until the end
of the year.
The quarterly survey, which has been conducted since
1962, shows flat or dropping job numbers in construction,
finance, retail and education services.
Brent Rakers, a stock analyst with Morgan Keegan
& Co. in Memphis, Tenn., said “there is a
good deal of uncertainty” about the strength of
the economy in the minds of consumers, investors and
“The consumer is more tentative right
now,” said Rakers, who counts watching the pool
industry as one of his areas of expertise. “As we
go into next year, if we get into a more stable housing
market, consumers can focus again on home