The election has made clear what should have already been obvious—the key to economic vitality in the United States is the creation of decent paying, long-term jobs for the middle class.
The construction industry was for many years the main source of these jobs. The Recession of 2008 changed this.
President-elect Trump has spoken at great length about creating jobs by revitalizing manufacturing. With the notable exception of promising to increase government spending on infrastructure, he has devoted less attention to the doing the same for the construction industry.
The new administration and Congress should make revitalizing the construction industry a priority. It is the bell-weather for the American economy and should not be ignored.
Construction is a derivative industry; it is driven by the health of manufacturing.
When heavy manufacturing thrives business owners expand their facilities, and their employees buy homes and cars which in turn stimulates further expansion of plants and facilities in other industries. This provides their workers with expendable income. In a healthy economy this cycle repeats itself and the construction industry flourishes. This creates more jobs in manufacturing and other sectors of the economy.
This may sound simplistic but it’s true.
Stimulating the economy, and the construction industry, is not so simple.
Will placing tariffs on imports benefit manufacturing at home? Will restricting the use of foreign labor provide more and better jobs for workers in the U.S.? Will the increasing use of modern technologies, such as robotic manufacturing of building components, create more jobs than they eliminate?
These are questions that should frame the national debate over the how to revitalize the economy. Job creation is important because it creates corporate profits, not the reverse.
A healthy construction industry, not record profits in the banking industry, is the best indicator of a robust economy.
Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.