Friday's unemployment report was far worse than economists had expected, as another 240,000 jobs were cut.
"Today's unemployment report--grim reading on all counts--is especially bad for construction and shows the urgency of enacting infrastructure spending as part of a stimulus bill," Ken Simonson, chief economist of the American General Contractors, said in a statement Friday following the Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
Unemployment has now surpassed the high seen after the last recession, when the jobless rate peaked at 6.3 percent in June 2003.
Construction employment numbers had the highest unemployment rate of any industry and the largest increase, 10.8 percent, up from 6.1 percent a year ago, Simonson noted. "Many of those losses have been in heavy and civil engineering construction--highways and other public works," Simonson said. "Those workers could quickly be re-employed if the states had enough money to award contracts for projects they have ready to go. Contrary to some assertions, this money would quickly make its way into the economy, supporting equipment and materials manufacturing and services jobs as well as construction. State officials say they have thousands of projects ready to award without long delays."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also recommends including infrastructure spending in a stimulus package. The chamber sent a letter to Congress Friday outlining its suggestions.
"Infrastructure investment directly supports jobs," said R. Bruce Josten, the chamber's executive vice president for government affairs, in the letter. "The current investment levels fail to keep pace with the demands of pressing economic, safety, energy and environmental needs. To ensure that infrastructure investment meets the ultimate objective of stimulating job creation and economic growth, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that funding is provided in such a way that it is targeted for near-term projects and can be spent quickly."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors also called for a "Main Street Stimulus Plan" that would include infrastructure spending. In an open letter Friday, the group said, "In light of today's report, the nation's mayors are renewing their call for Congress to act quickly on a 'MainStreet Stimulus' bill that would immediately put Americans back to work on infrastructure projects that provide short- and long-term benefits to our struggling economy. Cities are 'ready-to-go' with transit, energy-efficiency and community development infrastructure projects that will immediately employ people, support small businesses, and stimulate Main Street economies."