Is Obama Giving Real Talk About 'Shovel-Ready' Jobs?
1 year ago
Will the American Jobs Act get shoveled in the ground as fast as advertised?
By now, you’ve heard the mantra from President Obama “pass this jobs bill,“ which he’s echoed no less than a thousand times throughout September to numerous voting constituencies, in the front and back yards of his political opponents and across every social media platform worth mentioning. Much of the money in the American Jobs Act bill is slated for infrastructure “shovel ready” jobs but can the bill really get those proverbial shovels in the dirt?
The dirty truth is that many jobs deemed “shovel ready” are anything but. In a recent Politico article, a Berekley professor said, “Unfortunately, there aren’t many jobs ready to go at the snap of a finger.” And earlier this week, when Obama visited GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s state of Texas, he was welcomed with an ad that reminded the administration of when Obama admitted himself that jobs weren’t as shovel-ready as he thought. So why so much focus on the shovel-ready if there’s little certainty that they will dig us out of unemployment?
One thing positive that can be said is that employers have been doing more hiring than firing in every month since February 2010 -- a reversal of the misfortune suffered during the height of the recession when job losses outweighed creation, according to Gallup. A lot of those jobs come from small firms, employers with less than 50 people on staff. Payroll company ADP reported yesterday that small firms were responsible for almost two-thirds of jobs added last month.
Many of the shovel-ready infrastructure jobs -- repairing schools, office buildings, bridges, building a new wing on a university, or a new annex on a college campus -- come from small firms who’ve received sub-contracts from bigger firms that contract directly with governments.
Despite this fact, there have been few jobs points put on the scoreboard, and tomorrows unemployment rate from the Department of Labor is supposed to be dismal. So what’s the problem?
Of course, there has never been a silver bullet for unemployment. But the Obama Administration's focus on shovel-ready jobs, in both the stimulus act and now the American Jobs Act, should give pause. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities chief economist Chad Stone explained in an interview with Loop 21, “It’s a fact that infrastructure investment can take longer to have an impact on the economy.”