Midwest builders appear to be gaining a surer toe-hold in a recovery that already has buoyed prospects for colleagues in the South, West and Southwest.
In year-over-year comparisons, Illinois added 11,700 (6.1%) construction jobs in September, Indiana 7,000 (5.8%) jobs, Michigan 6,200 (4.7%) jobs and Wisconsin 3,900 (3.9%) jobs, according to data compiled by Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America. If those results don't compare all that favorably with those of California, Texas and Florida, they demonstrate continued acceleration of job growth in the region, which sat out the early years of the nation's economic recovery.
New data from Washington-D.C. American Institute of Architects further suggest the region's worst days may be behind it, indicating positive demand for design services in the Midwest for a fifth-consecutive month in September. Further, demand trailed only that of the South last month.
But. Patches of weakness continue to dog the region. Detroit's future remains a question mark. After Missouri voters earlier this year failed to approve a penny tax on retail to fund road construction, nary a penny remains in state coffers to bankroll major transportation projects. Despite activity in Indiana, the region's industrial sector continues to under-perform, with Florida and Georgia out-maneuvering Michigan and Illinois in attracting manufacturing interests.
Though its builders have been buoyed by massive road projects, Illinois remains on shaky fiscal ground, burdened by billions of dollars of debt and ongoing pension crisis. November may or may not herald the arrival of a new governor. Either way, the state has work to do.
Yet, it's hard to argue with those numbers. Despite problems, many regional builders are back on their feet.