Here and there and in bits and pieces, the construction industry is continuing to show signs of life, if not full recovery. The latest data from McGraw-Hill Construction, for instance, indicates that the national volume of new contracts grew by 11% in April. (And it grew by 23% in March.)
Despite these positive signs, the A/E/C industry's jobs situation remains anything but bright. As Architectural Record's Jenna McKnight reported from the American Institute of Architect's national convention recently, for example, AIA's chief economist Kermit Baker reported that U.S. architecture firms have shed an estimated 60,000 payroll jobs since December 2007. (McKnight's report is suggested reading, as are the numerous and informed reader comments which pontificate on the future of architecture.)
And construction unemployment remains much worse than the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported construction's unemployment rate improved in April, dropping from 17.2% in March, to just 14.5% by April. Still nothing to cheer about, that's for sure.
All of this must prove especially depressing to recent college grads—53% of whom are either unemployed or underemployed, according to analysis by the Associated Press.
In spite of this, engineering grads appear to have some considerable reason for optimism. A year ago, for instance, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that of the five college degrees most in demand, four were engineering (petroleum, chemical, mineral and mining; and computer). Last month, NACE reported that of eight broad employment categories, engineering grads had the highest average starting salary, of about $58,581. The average starting salary for civil engineering grads rose 1.7% in the past year, NACE stated, with this group earning $55,300 on average. Additionally, engineering internships were the highest paid of any industry, according to NACE.
All of which may explain the considerable optimism voiced by one Corbin Klett, an aerospace engineering student at the Georgia Institute of Technology who uploaded the above Youtube video of his commencement address. Klett says, "We are by and large the generation that will rise up, step up and stand up in the face of the world's greatest problems."
So what do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts!