Hurricane Sandy And Jobs: A Few Pockets of Opportunity

hurricane sandy jobs boost

No one would wish for a natural disaster on the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy, but if you're looking for a glimmer of hope and opportunity, rebuilding likely will mean more hours and pay for workers who help repair the damage.

After the initial shocks to the economy related to $60 billion worth of lost output and productivity, the nation will probably see a surge in demand for those in construction and skilled trades and other professions, notes employment-services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

"For a lot of workers, because of the aftereffects, there's a lot more work to do," says the company's CEO, John Challenger.

With homeowners and businesses struggling to rebuild, these workers likely will see fatter paychecks:

Then there's the thousands of utility workers who are descending on the East Coast from other parts of the country to help restore electricity and natural gas to homes and businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy. For example, Southern California Edison said Tuesday it is sending 170 employees and contractors to New York to aid efforts by Consolidated Edison, the utility company that serves New York City and some of its suburbs.

More:FEMA Chief Craig Fugate: Is Obama's Fate In His Hands?

Workers will also be needed to help restore operations at cell towers and many of the data centers that lost power during the storm. Water that poured into southern Manhattan drenched one of the world's densest communications nodes, taking out popular websites and forcing telecom carriers to reroute international traffic, The Associated Press reports.

Insurance-claims adjusters can also expect to work longer hours as they assess property damage caused by the storm. Most claims adjusters are paid salaries, so few can expect overtime for additional hours. Although, some have challenged whether their positions are exempt from overtime pay.

There also will be a significant increase in the need for unskilled workers to simply help remove debris. That's already being seen on jobs boards, such as CareerBuilder (an AOL Jobs sponsor), which has hundreds of listings for workers to help with disaster recovery. Qualifications for such part-time jobs are minimal -- having two forms of identification and being at least 18 years old. The ads also note that workers "must be able to work long hours."

Workers in such jobs must be careful to ensure that the ads, including those posted on free online classifieds such as Craigslist, are legitimate offers of employment. State agencies can help you discern whether an ad is simply a scam. The New York Department of Labor, for example, offers these tips:

  • The ad asks for money, such as for a background check or equipment needed for the job.
  • Ads for jobs that don't require any experience but offer phenomenal pay.
  • The ad asks for a wire transfer of money.

Of course, another outcome of the storm is that it's made it much more difficult for some employees to get to work. Many of those who live in New York City's far-flung suburbs rely daily on trains to get them into the city. But with service suspended until further notice, commuters such as Jeff Storey of Goshen, N.Y., are left to find other means to get to their Manhattan offices.

"Everything is up in the air," Storey told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y., on Tuesday. "I've got this feeling I'm going to be using the bus again," he said, referring to Hurricane Irene, the storm last year that tore up parts of the Port Jervis train line that Storey relies on.

Though Hurricane Sandy will result in an increase in jobs and wages for many workers, Challenger doesn't expect an employment surge to result.

"Even if you see $50 [billion] to $100 billion of renewed economic activity after the storm is done," he told the "Marketplace" radio program, "it's still too small a number to make real impact on driving unemployment down long term."

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