GRAPH: Construction Employment Continues To Falter

Our guest blogger is Matt Separa, a research assistant with the Economic Policy Team at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The construction industry took a huge hit in 2007 as a result of the collapse of the housing bubble. Construction employment has fallen from its all-time high of 7.7 million in April 2006 to 5.5 million this July, a level not seen since March of 1996. Furthermore, levels have remained relatively stagnant since November 2009 after shedding nearly 2 million jobs in two years.

The July jobs report that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released today, while fairly good in comparison to previous months, showed a gain of only 8,000 construction jobs. These numbers indicate that a substantial investment in infrastructure along the lines of the Works Progress Administration is the right policy decision for politicians to make, especially at a time when the American Society of Civil Engineers grades the overall U.S. infrastructure as a ā€œDā€ and estimates that a total of $2.2 trillion in spending is needed over five years to bring it up to acceptable levels:

Currently however, politics and public policy are only exacerbating the problem. Republicans refused last week to provide a clean extension of Federal Aviation Administration funding over a desire to include an anti-union provision, resulting in the furlough of nearly 70,000 construction workers and the immediate halting of $2.5 billion in airport construction projects. House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) has presented a bill that would slash funding for the FAA and transportation infrastructure projects, costing more than 560,000 jobs and exacerbating unemployment in the construction industry, which is already at 16.3 percent.

Although a short-term deal to re-fund the FAA has now been struck, it is of little comfort to both the workers who had their lives disrupted and to the economy, which continues to suffer the blows of political intransigence.