By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Construction spending in New York City is on track this year to surpass the record set just before the financial crisis as an all-time high in city jobs drives strong demand for new housing and office space, an industry association said on Tuesday.
The New York Building Congress forecast construction spending this year will reach $43.1 billion, a 26 percent increase from 2015 and the first time the metric will have eclipsed the $40 billion mark in the city.
The association projected spending of $42.1 billion in 2017 and $42.3 billion the year after as the biggest building boom since the 1980s changes the skyline in downtown Manhattan, its far West Side and in Long Island City across the East River.
New York City employment has grown 18 percent since late 2009, the strongest pace in decades, as seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment rose to a record 4.3 million jobs in September, according to the state's Department of Labor.
Growth in private sector jobs increased 2.3 percent in the city, faster than the U.S. average of 1.9 percent, as millennials seek to live, work and play in urban environments.
On an inflation-adjusted basis, this year's projected spending on residential and non-residential buildings is 47 percent greater than 2007, the previous peak when $31.1 billion was spent on city construction, the association said.
However, after-inflation government spending on infrastructure is expected to be 39 percent less than 2007, a sign the current boom is being driven more by the private sector than the previous surge when spending was split almost evenly.
Almost a dozen marquee office buildings will be completed or be under construction in Manhattan by 2018, including five towers in or nearby the mammoth Hudson Yards project on the far West Side, 3 World Trade Center downtown and One Vanderbilt adjacent to Grand Central Terminal in Midtown.
Global capital is increasingly looking to New York real estate for investment returns, which poses a double-edged sword, said Jesse M. Keenan, a faculty member at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.
While softening the economic cycle's downside, the capital flowing to New York also forces domestic returns lower.
It remains to be seen whether this money can diversify asset classes to repair decaying infrastructure, house the elderly and poor, or prevent the exodus of highly productive mid-career workers who cannot afford to raise families in the city, he said.
(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)