Immigrants crucial to Trump’s infrastructure plan

conor sen bloomberg

An article in the Bergen RECORD on Friday, March 3, 2017, documents why access to immigrant labor will be vital to success of the plans of the Trump administration to repair and revitalize the nation’s infrastructure. Written by Conor Sen, a Bloomberg View columnist who is a portfolio manager for New River Investments in Atlanta and a contributor to the Atlantic and Business Insider, the article argues that for these plans to succeed, 570,000 additional construction workers would be required, in addition to more truck drivers, project managers, environmental specialists, and all other support staff to complete projects.

Sen says that such growth hasn’t happened since 1946. Over the past 12 months construction employment growth was only 170,000 jobs. And in addition to the labor required for infrastructure, there is a growing demand for residential construction which is currently adding around 50,000 construction jobs per year.

Meanwhile, the construction labor market at current wages is tight and has been tightening for the past several years. Last summer, there were only around 400,000 unemployed construction workers, around the lowest level since the late 1990s. So to fill the unprecedented need for workers, they are going to have to come from other industries, outside the labor force, or abroad.

Up to 1.1 million construction workers in the U.S. are undocumented, so stepping up deportations, as the Trump administration is planning, would further deplete an already-too-small construction
labor pool. Without radical changes to immigration policy, we might have capacity for an additional 50,000 construction workers per year for infrastructure projects–far short of the 570,000 needed for Trump’s infrastructure proposal.

Add to this the fact that just 223,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, which is the fewest in nearly 44 years–the lowest since March 1973 when President Richard Nixon was in the White House.

So–how can it make sense to propose to deport some 11 million workers, already in residence in the U.S., talented, and eager to work?

Adapted from “Math will kill President Trump’s infrastructure plan,” by Conor Sen. The RECORD Friday, March 3, 2017, p. 11A; and “Jobless claims lowest since ’73”, also from the RECORD on that date.

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