Passing the Jobs Bonds package should be a top priority for Washington’s Legislature during the special session. Rebuilding school facilities, retrofitting for energy efficiency, improving water quality, and cleaning up the environment will immediately create badly needed jobs across the state – and build the foundation for a healthier, more sustainable economy in the future. Bonds are a commonly used strategy to take advantage of reduced interest rates and low construction costs. This new infusion of capital and jobs will help repair the damage to household and state budgets brought on by the Great Recession, and help ensure Washington’s economic recovery accelerates rather than falters.
Washington Needs Jobs – Especially in Construction
Washington workers lost over 200,000 jobs between the fall of 2008 and February 2010. The first tentative recovery from the Great Recession in early 2010 quickly faded. In the past two years, we have regained less than half the number of jobs lost. While many national economic indicators look positive for continued growth through 2012, high gas prices, turmoil in the Middle East, and economic problems in Europe and Asia could bring economic recovery to a halt again. Government investment now will help consumers and the private sector gain new confidence in the face of continuing uncertainty.
Unchecked speculation and greed in the financial sector brought on the recession, but construction took the biggest hit. Washington construction workers have lost 74,000 jobs – 35% of the industry. Most employment sectors added jobs in 2011, but construction did not. Many of the new jobs now being created – in aerospace manufacturing, health care, or restaurants – either require different skills and training or pay substantially less than construction trades. Nearly one fourth of all people collecting unemployment benefits in 2011 were construction workers. A Washington Employment Security Department analysis found that only 25% of people who had exhausted unemployment benefits had found new jobs, and those newly employed were earning on average $7.26 an hour less than in their previous jobs.