The depressed construction industry has contributed to our state’s higher unemployment rate of 12.4 percent.
From 1993 to 2006, good-paying construction jobs helped fuel our state’s economy. But since 2006, when the housing industry peaked, California lost nearly 400,000 construction jobs.
Loss of supplier-related jobs and employment in the real estate, appraisal and loan service sectors also contributed to a domino effect on our economy and the state’s declining revenue. Individuals employed in these sectors typically earned more than minimum wage earners, making California’s economic recovery even more challenging during the next few years.
One solution is to invest in public infrastructure jobs today. Numerous bridges, roads, sewage and water systems, and schools in California have endured deferred maintenance for several years. Investment in California’s aging public infrastructure through a massive capital program would create good-paying jobs for Californians — not the kind you can out-source.
California’s deteriorating infrastructure is a deferred public deficit and future liability. Public investment now could save taxpayers billions in higher construction costs at a later date.
Public infrastructure spending actually creates private-sector jobs. A study published by Cal State Sacramento, titled “Financing California’s Infrastructure,” states: “$1 of public infrastructure investment increases personal income or employment between 10 and 20 percent. Depending on the type of infrastructure project, a $1 billion investment increases direct and indirect employment of approximately 15,000 individuals.”
In urban areas, public construction projects, if coupled with local-hire agreements, give residents a hiring preference. This helps stimulate local economies because construction wages are typically higher than minimum-wage paying jobs, and wages are typically spent in local communities.
Better-paying jobs means people spend at restaurants, at car dealers and other local shops and businesses, which in turn generates income for our cash-strapped local governments to pay for public services such as fire and police protection, street lights, schools and libraries.
Investing in California’s deteriorating infrastructure today is a productive long-term solution. Statewide infrastructure spending could also boost manufacturing jobs.
Moreover, the public at large and businesses benefit from modernized capital infrastructure improvements in their communities, while local and state governments also derive an economic benefit from the revenue source produced from jobs.
Now is the time for multi-agency cooperation, and through partnerships with private, public and labor segments, to work to find solutions for our state. We must invest in California. It will lay the groundwork for a strong economic future.
Tracy Emblem can be reached at www.tracyemblem.com.