As the new year opens and many of us return to work after an all-too-brief holiday break, notices of slight upturns in the construction industry have started to surface: Construction employment either increased or remained steady in a growing number of metropolitan areas–120 of 337–between November 2009 and November 2010, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said construction employment is improving slightly thanks in large part to temporary federal funding for stimulus and military construction (see full storyhere). That news comes on the heels of some other mixed news of increases ( and decreases!) of construction activity around the country.

So what do we expect to happen in 2011? Will money start to flow and healthcare construction projects begin again on a wide scale? Are we looking at another year of trickling dollars and restrained activity? Where do YOU see it going? Post below and let us know your thoughts. For my two cents, I see this as a year of transition, with lenders acting cautiously and eventually warming up near the tail end of 2011 -- and it can't come soon enough. Healthcare reform will continue to drive most of this, and with Congressional shakeups, who knows how that will wind up affecting things? In any case, even small bits of good news are surely welcome -- let's hope we see some actual positive trends as the year continues, as opposed to these isolated bursts of activity.