Sandy Rebuilding Spurs Hiring in Furniture to Construction

The superstorm that caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and killed more than 100 people is also providing unexpected opportunities for companies helping in the recovery.

Furniture, construction, plumbing, tree removal, road repair and structural engineering are among the businesses spread thin in the aftermath of Sandy, the biggest Atlantic storm on record.

Michael Guarino of Brick, New Jersey, said his third-generation, family-owned furniture store nearly shut down after the storm struck. Two weeks after Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, he saw an unusual boom in business.

“I can’t even keep up with it,” Guarino, 50, said of the post-storm demand. His business added two delivery trucks and a warehouse. He expanded the staff to 27 from 15. He wants to hire more, though he said it’s “very difficult” to find local workers while residents are consumed with clean-up efforts.

Guarino, who has doubled his work schedule to 80-hour weeks since Sandy hit, isn’t the only one hiring. The storm has probably increased the demand for construction workers by at least an additional 30,000, said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at Economic Outlook Group LLC, a Princeton, New Jersey-based forecasting firm.

The economic boost of post-storm reconstruction probably will occur over the next year or two, and Baumohl said he expects “a real big, V-shaped rebound” in construction during the next six to 12 months.

To aid in Sandy’s immediate clean-up, Thomas Nicolosi, owner of Staten Island, New York-based Redline Construction LLC, added seven employees to his full-time staff of four.  Even with the additions, the company is “still short-handed” and planning to hire more workers, Nicolosi said.

Demand for work after Sandy was “so chaotic” that Nicolosi’s partner started a waiting list for service requests. The company gutted 46 damaged houses in about 20 days in the Belle Harbor area of Queens, New York, after the storm. Employees are now returning to those customers to solicit orders to rebuild.

U.S. lawmakers are considering a $60.4 billion package requested by the Obama administration to assist residents as well as businesses that sustained damage after Sandy. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in 2005, Congress directed more than $110 billion to the Gulf Coast.

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