The construction industry and state and local governments are among the biggest drags on the nation's economic recovery, President Obama said Wednesday.
If those two sectors were recovering as they have in previous recessions, the unemployment rate would be in the 6% range, the president told a group of digital journalists gathered at the White House.
If these areas were to have a similar rebound now, each one would take a point off of the nation's 8.3 unemployment rate.
Obama has long championed sending more aid to state and local governments and boosting infrastructure spending. These two areas received billions of dollars from his 2009 stimulus act in hopes of reversing the nation's freefalling economy. But Congress has resisted funneling more money to assist these sectors.
Since then, they have continued to lag, even as companies have ramped up their hiring. State and local governments have shed nearly 600,000 jobs since the recovery began in mid-2009, though they have recently stabilized. And the unemployment rate for experienced construction workers remains higher at 13.1% for the fourth quarter of 2011 than the national average of 8.3%.
Now is an especially good time to revamp the nation's infrastructure, which would boost job growth, Obama said. Interest rates are historically low, construction workers are dying to get back on the job, and contractors are competing for projects, coming in on time and under budget.
"This country could greatly benefit from a major rebuilding -- roads, bridges, ports, high-speed internet, high-speed rail," he said.
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