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Rebuilding America
Will Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Create Too Many Jobs?

President-elect Trump’s infrastructure plan may cause a skilled labor shortage, Reuters reports:

Earlier this year, the National Association of Home Builders estimated there were around 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the United States, an 81 percent increase in the last two years.

Infrastructure projects need highly trained workers, such as heavy equipment operators and iron specialists. But as a result of the 2007-2008 recession, which caused an estimated 25 percent of construction jobs to vanish, their ranks have thinned.

Many of these workers went back to school, joined the military or got lower-paying jobs in retail, services and other sectors. Some just got too old for the rigors of construction.

“They wandered off into other careers,” said Leonard Toenjes, president of Associated General Contractors of Missouri, which represents contractors in the state.

Undocumented immigrants, who otherwise might help replenish those ranks, are unlikely candidates however, since companies do not want to invest in training people with an uncertain status, especially given Trump’s anti-immigrant bent.

Trump may want to borrow an idea from two candidates he defeated: Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio. Clinton and Rubio each wanted to increase vocational training in America. With college debt rising, less-costly technical schools are an especially attractive option. As the older generation of construction workers and craftsman retire, the urgency of finding a solution to this problem will increase. Moreover, if we see a rise in new home construction in the suburbs, the crunch will become even tighter.

Although we’re skeptical of some of the dire reports that are published by trade groups like the American Society of Civil Engineers, America’s infrastructure clearly needs repairs. Bridges and tunnels and roads and airports all would benefit from major capital investments. But one of the concerns to keep in mind as we prepare for four years of construction is that any massive government effort, particularly at a time when demand isn’t so depressed, could crowd out private activity. If all the capable skilled labor is being put on government projects (and, thanks to current federal law, paid at prevailing union wages in big cities), there won’t be many people left to build houses and private-sector buildings. Those who are left will command high salaries, which sounds like a good thing but could also discourage private firms from even building at all.

As Congress and the president-elect prepare for a big infrastructure push, they would do well to keep these issues in mind. Construction is a highly cyclical industry, and the federal government is preparing to get involved at a time when labor supply is low and private sector demand is rising. To avoid a major shortage, more skilled laborers will have to enter the market. It’s possible the private sector will produce such workers on its own, but the government may have to think about what it can do to encourage more vocational training in the meantime. There are millions of Americans who can benefit from higher-paying construction jobs. But someone needs to help them learn how to do the work.

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  • Jim__L

    So instead of building new buildings, businesses would have to locate in place that already had large amounts of under-utilized infrastructure?

    Like, say, the Rust Belt?

    Then there’s the idea of Too Many Well Paid Construction Jobs. You know, every age has problems. I think it’s worth trying out the problems you outline here, just for a change of pace.

  • Dale Fayda

    There is an old saying: “Thinking up s*&t to worry about”. Trump is not even in office, whatever infrastructure projects may or may not come off are still in the “talking stage” at best, likely years away from happening (if they happen at all), but the resident “wizards of smart” are already concerned about a problem which doesn’t yet exist and probably never will. Priceless…

  • jeburke

    Good luck with that. More likely, contractors will turn to immigrants.

    • Observe&Report

      Uh…given President-elect Trump’s stance on immigration (particularly the kind used to undercut American workers), how much “more likely” do you think that is?

      • jeburke

        Actually, I think Trump’s positions on immigration are a gigantic fraud — like him — and that pressure from businesses needing employees will win the day.

        • Observe&Report

          Under Obama, America’s labour force participation rate dipped below 70% for the first time in generations. Part of that is due to the 2008 recession, but the point is that for every three Americans who are able to work, one of them isn’t.

          Why can’t businesses hire workers already in the US?

          • Johnathan Swift Jr.

            Because the Democrats have to replace all the people in the Rust Belt, now the Trump Belt that they have alienated over the past forty years with newer, browner voters.

          • Observe&Report

            Republicans now control the presidency, congress, and a majority of governorships and state legislatures. They’ll also soon control the supreme court. The Democrats’ plans appear to have completely fallen through.

          • Johnathan Swift Jr.

            Well, the fight for liberty never ends because the left is fighting the long war, to destroy each and every American institution from within, to destroy Europe through the mass migration of millions of hostile migrants that no one has homes, nor occupations, nor spouses for, to replace every aspect of Western Civilization. In the United States, they own the bureaucracy lock, stock and barrel, which can be seen with the impuntity that they taregted conservatives in the I.R.S., the absolute perversion of the Justice Department into a social warrior organization which aims at righting what they see as wrongs through the persecution of people by race and class. So, as we saw this week, the bureaucracy will fight any improvement any change from within. The struggle will never end because the evil that is the left never sleeps and when they rule, it always descends into mayhem, burder and bloodshed, from the Vendee, to the Ukraine, to the Third Reich, to the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, to Cuba, where the men who virtually every leftist admires ruled in mutual misery.

  • Andrew Allison

    Um, may I point out that housing is not infrastructure. The frenetic search for things that might go wrong during a Trump administration is becoming nonsensical.

    • f1b0nacc1

      If Trump ushered in Utopia, they would complain that the newspapers were dull…

      • Andrew Allison

        Nah, the fake news machine known as the MSM would keep pumping out rubbish like that quoted in the post. What’s distressing is that Via Media is quoting this drivel and then making up a story around it.

        • f1b0nacc1

          You are surprised? While I am grateful to our host for providing us this entertainment (as well as a venue for us to congregate!), I am under no illusions as to his position on these issues. Trump (and for that matter most real conservatives) are ‘not our people’, and thus unworthy of being taken seriously, given the benefit of the doubt, or even treated with a modicum of respect.

          • Andrew Allison

            Apparently, among other things, we share disgust at the left’s response to the Trump phenomenon. It’s not simply the unwillingness to consider other viewpoints that bothers me but the outright Fascist attempts to overturn the result of an election. Happily, with two-thirds of the States under Republican control, the Electoral College is here to stay (and CA won’t get to choose the next President).

          • Johnathan Swift Jr.

            Hey, hey, hey Andrew, but their fascism, their attempts to overturn a free and fair election (and one I might add where their chosen candidate had an alliance of the press, the entertainment industry, the tech industry, government employees at the city, country, state and federal level, the large labor unions, along with Wall Street along with a billion dollar campaign) are well intended. And, I am old enough to recall when the Electoral College was the antiquated product of Dead White Males, where as before yesterday’s vote it was the last bulwark against right wing, orange-haired, raccoon-eyed fascism!

          • Andrew Allison

            Not to be repetitive, but the fact that 4.3 of Hillary’s 2.8 million plurality came from CA alone and absent CA & NY, it was Trump who had the 2.8 million plurality. In other words, the Electoral College did its job by electing the candidate chosen by all the States, not just one.

  • Disappeared4x

    “…when labor supply is low…” is a time when the labor participation rate is 68%, NOT present 63%. Do not know how to factor in the ‘snowflake’ cohort, many of whom probably prefer a gig at Google.

  • ——————————

    Well there wouldn’t be a shortage of construction workers if academia didn’t, for the last several decades, push the thinking of the general populace into believing that one needs to go to college to get a job, construction is one of the ‘jobs that Americans don’t want to do anymore’, and it is an ‘uneducated’ job.

    Actually a college degree is ‘uneducated’…if you have no marketable natural skill, you just go to a building for several years and have a liberal professor pump your brain full of nonsense so you can pass a series of tests and receive a piece of paper that says you have been ‘educated’.
    Glad I have always thought for myself and never bought into that crap…..

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Too many jobs! This is a problem? Median income has been stagnate or falling for 40 years, wages will have to rise if there’s a labor supply shortage. But with job participation at multi decade lows, there is a huge well of labor just waiting to come back into the job market if the pay is good enough.

  • rheddles

    Too much winning, now Too Many Jobs, Yikes Trump is a sure two termer.

    • Kevin

      I’m sure “too many jobs” will be a winning campaign slogan for Trump’s opponents for the next eight years.

      What is it about Trump that makes his enemies jump in the nearest Ocean of Stupid?

  • LarryD

    The track record of Federal training programs does not fill me with optimism at the thought of a new one.

    • SDN

      Let him put Mike Rowe in charge of it.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      There are something like seventy on the books now, none of which seem to ever have been tested on their results, but when it comes to government, it is claims that matter, the results be damned.

  • rpabate

    I would not count on much infrastructure being built right away, and maybe never. The Enviro-Left will do everything in their power to prevent much infrastructure from being built. First, they don’t like anything that disrupts nature and that is what a lot of infrastructure projects do. Second, they don’t want an increase in jobs and economic activity, and this is an area of the economy where there are a lot of ways to kill and vastly slow down projects. Read “Rule of Nobody” by Philip K. Howard. An excellent book.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      The environmental movement is dedicated to the proposition that nothing of value should ever happen. The single exception is of course wind and solar development, especially projects that kill lots of raptors and fry a lot of other flying species.

  • Eurydice

    This doesn’t make any sense. If companies don’t want to invest in training people of “uncertain status”, how about they try training people of certain status? Even if Trump’s infrastructure dreams come true, the rest of the world isn’t going to stay frozen. The private sector goes where there is demand – if construction pays good money, people will enter the industry

  • MAGAKnightLeo

    Would that we had such problems.

  • We have a serious problem. Without pulling people back into the workforce, our national finances are in real trouble. The most reliable way to pull people back into the labor force is to have a labor shortage so employers are motivated to find and entice these people back into the workforce.

  • JD

    Leftists have an incredible capacity to make both “too much” and “too little” of ANYTHING be either good or bad depending on whether their side or the other is responsible.

  • I don’t expect any such result since Obama spent a comparable amount of money for an identical purpose and…. pfffft…. nothing. But what happens if Trump finds shovel ready jobs right where Obama looked and reported to have found none? Something.

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