John Nichols, The Nation: Much of the job creation that is likely to result from the plan Obama outlined Saturday will be in the construction sector, which has been especially hard hit by the slump in new home construction and the stalling out development initiatives in many parts of the U.S. The latest federal jobs report puts the number of unemployed construction workers above the 1.2 million mark, for a 12.7 percent unemployment rate in the industry.
The president-elect will still have to come up with plans for other sectors of the economy — including an industrial plan and a new approach to trade policy — if he is serious about stimulating the sort of job growth that is needed.
But Obama’s focus on construction is smart, and useful.
Construction work is less likely to be outsourced and more likely to pay union-scale wages. Money paid to construction firms and workers tends to circulate rapidly in local economies.
And if Obama gets his way, there will be a lot of construction going on: He’s proposing “the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s,” as part of a push to create 2.5 million jobs in relatively short order. (Price tag: Start around $400 billion and move upward.)
Most of the jobs that are likely to be created will be in traditional construction work — restoring bridges, roads, schools and public buildings — while a lot of the rest will employ workers from the construction trades in projects to retrofit government buildings and schools to make them more energy efficient and wiring schools, hospitals and other facilities so that access to the internet can be dramatically expanded.