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Fed Economists Disagree Over Construction Jobs’ Lesson on Economy

Washington Post (04/06/12) Peter Whoriskey

The housing market collapse left 1.4 million construction workers
without jobs, pushing the unemployment rate in the construction
industry above 17%. However, U.S. Federal Reserve economists
disagree as to whether unemployed construction workers are worse
off than others who lost their jobs during the economic downturn.
Two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Richard
Crump and Aysegul Sahin, do not believe construction workers are
“experiencing relatively worse labor market outcomes,”
contrary to the opinion of two economists at the Federal Reserve
Bank of Atlanta, Pedro Silos and Lei Fang.

The construction industry is the focus of a debate about how to
handle unemployment, with one side insisting economic shifts have
resulted in a mismatch between the skills possessed by workers
and the skills needed by the economy. This means there are too
many people right now with construction skills who are unprepared
to enter other professions, and stimulating the economy with
monetary policy or government spending will not improve the
situation. This viewpoint is in contrast to those who believe the
economy needs to be stimulated through government policy to
reduce unemployment rates and that following every recession, the
economy and workers make adjustments. These economists believe
that unemployment in the construction industry, for instance,
would decline if more money was spent on infrastructure