But stalled spending doesn't mean cancelled spending. Eventually, all $135 billion will be landing in the hands of contractors.
Some of it has gone out the door in recent months.
In late January, the federal government awarded $8 billion in stimulus money to high-speed rail projects around the country.
More than a quarter of that money went to California, whose bullet-train project is furthest along. The high-speed rail project, which California voters approved in 2008, will shuttle passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles at speeds of 220 mph.
Construction won't begin until 2012, but when it does, the monumental undertaking will employ tens of thousands of people, said George Pla, president and CEO of Cordoba Corp., an L.A.-based civil-engineering and construction management firm, which is overseeing the design and construction of the $40 billion project.
"The funny part of it is, you know it's a real project when people start fighting about where the alignment should go and where the stations should be," he told Hispanic Business magazine. "These are good problems to have."
As for Cordoba Corp., it plans to add up to 50 employees to its 110-member roster by year's end.
The stimulus has also been a godsend for Mr. Troya. His Consolidated Contracting Services -- which he co-owns with Tony Elias-Calles
-- won an $18 million stimulus-funded job to build a community clinic north of San Diego. That represents about a third of the company's entire annual revenues.
But like so many other projects, construction won't begin until 2011.
"Unfortunately, it's not a 2010 project," Mr. Troya said, adding, "we normally don't do a lot of public works projects, but the economy being what it is, everybody's got to adjust or be eliminated."
Mr. Troya said the 20-year-old company doesn't plan to add to its roster of 47 employees for the stimulus job.
"We're a very conservative company," he said.
In Arizona, the four-year-old Andale Construction -- an underground utilities contractor -- enjoyed immediate success in the boomtown of the Phoenix valley. But the Great Recession applied the brakes, and 2009 was its toughest year. Now it has applied for stimulus-funded job at a military base for $10.8 million, which is triple the amount of its highest year in revenues.
"We've got our fingers crossed," said company founder Luis De La Cruz.
The wrecking ball of the real-estate collapse has been especially destructive in California. Here, rueful construction statistics are the norm.
The statewide construction unemployment rate exceeds 30 percent, and the hemorrhaging hasn't let up. In February alone, the state lost 21,000 jobs.
What's worse, the industry in California is bracing for a new wave of foreclosures, said Mr. Davis of the Southern California Contractors Association.
"I think we'll return to where we were by 2015 or 2016," he said. "What I'm really saying is we'll get back about half of that market, not the full amount."
Across the nation, the news isn't all bad.
U.S. construction actually added 15,000 jobs in March -- the first increase since 2007. But industry analysts are far from satisfied. Many ascribe the uptick to a seasonal aberration: the recent winter storms on the East Coast led to a glut of postponed projects that are only now getting under way.
All told, between February of 2009 to February of 2010, just 10 of 337 U.S. metropolitan areas added construction jobs, according to an April report from the American General Contractors Association.
Many of the increases tended to occur in the central and eastern regions, in states such as North Dakota, Wisconsin, New York and New Hampshire.
Two hundred and thirty cities experienced double-digit declines, while only two cities experienced double-digit increases, the largest being in Eau Claire, Wisc., which added 600 jobs.
Hardest hit was Houston, Texas, which lost more than 25,500 jobs, a decline of 13 percent.
Kristen Ogden, director of publications for the AGC of Texas, said the stimulus package has brought major relief to the Texas construction trade, essentially doubling the amount of contracting by the Texas Department of Transportation from 2008 to 2009.
"That stimulus money is definitely a life saver," she told Hispanic Business magazine. "I wouldn't say the industry is completely flush with money, but it definitely served its purpose as a stopgap."
All in all, the construction industry has yet to benefit from its biggest boost of stimulus relief, but even after the wave hits -- and even after a recovery takes hold -- the industry may find itself permanently resized.
It is of the utmost importance for many out-of-work construction employees to get re-trained, possibly in green-energy fields, said Congressman Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona.
"Some of the jobs lost during the recession are not going to come back," he told Hispanic Business magazine. "So bringing those individuals in for adult basic education, vocational training and career training in preparation for different opportunities is also part of the strategy for recovery."
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