"From what we’ve seen so far in 2011, nonresidential construction will likely be further delayed," he said. "I do not expect significant construction employment in the months ahead. The economy has hit a soft spot and the construction job picture is flat.
"There are a number of nonresidential segments that should show signs of life by next year," Basu added. "Construction related to energy and healthcare top the list, but there is also a significant amount of construction to be generated by data centers, exporters and in rebuilding communities shattered by natural disaster."
Basu points out that while there is a dearth of residential buyers, "significant pools of money have formed to purchase distressed commercial real estate.
"The 2012 outlook is not at all clear at this point," he warned.
"We're talking years before we see unemployment rates approaching 6%," Baker said. He estimated 2015, and then considered what single factor could hasten the economy toward more normal levels. "No. 1 on the wish list would be consumer confidence – people are nervous about doing anything at all now."
Stable jobs make a big difference in consumer confidence, and Basu is mindful of Baby Boom demographics showing a large population reaching retirement age by 2016.
"What we need is the Dow at 16,000," he said. "Then more of these baby boomers will feel comfortable retiring, which will create a lot of job opportunities."