As President Obama made clear the other night, too many Americans are out of work or underemployed. Nowhere do we see that problem more severely than within the construction industry.
Although construction represents only 4.5 percent of the U.S. workforce, construction workers have accounted for over 20 percent of the jobs lost. Today the industry’s unemployment rate is 13.5 percent – significantly higher than the national average.
If it weren’t for the stimulus and other public investments in infrastructure projects, however, that unemployment rate would be much worse. Indeed, employment levels in heavy and civil construction – the type of construction funded by the stimulus – have remained stable and even grown slightly since the stimulus first kicked in, while the rest of the industry continued to shed jobs.
Should Congress fail to enact the desperately needed infrastructure investments the president proposes, too many construction workers will remain unemployed, the private sector will suffer and taxpayers will end up paying more, later, for infrastructure.
Infrastructure projects don’t just create construction jobs. New construction activity boosts demand for steel, concrete, construction equipment and countless other services and supplies.
Construction projects boost sales at everything from the lunch wagon near the job site to the truck dealership across town. Improved highways and transportation systems also help businesses turn commodities into cash by cutting shipping times and improving their efficiencies.
And investing in infrastructure projects saves taxpayers money over the long run, because it costs more to rebuild broken roads and deteriorated structures than to maintain them.
Investing in infrastructure is the most effective way to create good jobs, deliver great roads, build a strong economy and protect taxpayers. That is why the Associated General Contractors of America stands with the president and everyone else who is willing to make the investments needed to revive our industry and rebuild our economy.
Stephen Sandherr is the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America.