But as rebuilding efforts pick up, experts say activity in the Northeast could help spark the national economy.
Contractors near the coast in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut say they expect to stay busy well into next year. While industry groups caution that new building projects likely will come at the expense of others canceled because of the storm, many contractors and analysts say the recovery effort will have a significant effect as owners of homes and businesses carry out repairs and make improvements.
Jason Brand, owner of DASO Cleaning & Restoration in Plainview, N.Y., said that he has had hundreds of jobs and that requests keep coming as people discover more losses. He hired another 17 technicians to keep up with demand. But like many others, Brand said he takes no pleasure in profiting from people’s misfortune.
“This is not the type of business that I like. I hate seeing so many people in distress,” he said. “My idea of good business is to clean up after an accident here or there. People are calling us crying.”
For casinos in New Jersey, a recovery cannot come soon enough. In the first week after reopening, Atlantic City’s 12 casinos saw their business plummet by half. Things are slowly rebounding, but thousands of casino workers remain out of work because there are simply not enough customers to justify the payrolls of even two months ago.
“About half my membership is working,” said Bob McDevitt, president of local 54 of the Unite-HERE union, which represents nearly 14,000 casino service industry workers. “The other half is on sharply reduced hours or has not worked at all since the storm. It’s devastating.”
Atlantic City has started a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in the Northeast letting customers know the resort is unharmed and open for business.
With life not yet entirely back to normal in the hardest-hit areas, some have been traveling farther than usual for Christmas trees. Kathy Kogut, owner of Kogut Hemlock Hill Tree Farm in Somers, Conn., said business has been brisk, with many customers from New York and New Jersey, including a dozen last weekend.
“People are making an adventure of it, coming out to the country and picking out a tree,” she said. “Whenever there is any kind of disaster, no matter where it is, it causes families to become closer. You focus on the family tradition again.”