Private Construction: The Economic Truth Serum
Throughout my 30+ plus years in both private and union construction, I have noticed patterns that are absolute. When the economy begins a growth spurt, it’s like a tidal wave. Construction is the one industry that always takes off in a booming economy. As soon as investors believe they can provide a good, profit-yielding service, watch out! Here come the hard hats!
As a kid, I remember my dad going through really lean times. It was Brooklyn in the early 70s. He struggled to make ends meet, but that rough patch only lasted about 18 months.
Before I knew it, my dad had so much work that he was teaching me how to lay wood flooring and repair vacuums. His day job was repairing vacuum cleaners and he worked on flooring nights and weekends. Sometimes it became so busy that my mom would have to work the register at the vacuum store. At the age of 8, I proudly began helping Dad out repairing vacuums in the back of the store. Dad would come home exhausted after 12 hours of laying and scraping floors. We would sit down for dinner together as a family, even at 11 o’clock at night. Those years were hard, but magical. Every day I was reminded that only in America could such hard work reap such a reward; a happy immigrant family making it.
By the time I was 18, I had a four man crew installing kitchens and bathroom. Thanks to dad, I now knew the business and trade inside out. I thought I had found my pot of gold when I brought home a thousand dollars a week. Just like all foolish young men, I blew the whole lot of it. I figured that it was no big deal and that I could just work hard and get it all back, right? WRONG!
One day, there was all this chatter on the radio about the stock market I didn’t pay attention, because, after all, what does the stock market have to do with a construction kid from Brooklyn? Turns out, EVERYTHING! Immediately after Black Tuesday, I stood with 12 hundred workers and was told, “go home we’ll call you.” We went from working 7 days a week, proudly breaking our backs to support our families to waiting by the phone for a job.
That was my first experience with the cycles of economics. Finally, the call came, but not until a year and a half later. There was none of this “Jobless Recovery” or “Jobs Saved.” We were simply out of work construction workers, on our own. No fancy terms. Whatever you call it, an out of work father is the worst title a man can have.
Today, Obama tells us that the Stimulus Act worked. He claims to have saved the economy from disaster and to have put us in the right direction. Thank God he told us! Cause otherwise I would have never known! So let’s pass the word around through all the unemployment lines that the recession is over!
From my Blue Collar Corner, I see private sector unemployment at 30%. We’ll know that we’ve really turned the corner in this economy when we hear the jackhammers drill.