President Trump’s election has generated plenty of talk about how his administration will shape economic policy in the U.S. Thus far, things have been moving relatively smoothly, with 235,000 new jobs created in February and unemployment holding steady at 4.7%. In the bigger economic picture, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is forecasting a 2.27% increase in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017.
Despite those encouraging numbers, one thing hasn’t made significant gains: wages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), real average hourly earnings increased by a mere 0.1% from January to February. Year over year, wages were unchanged between February 2016 and February 2017. President Trump’s proposal to ramp up infrastructure spending, however, could open the door to more jobs that offer bigger paychecks.
Where Better-Paying Jobs Are Most Likely to Come From
President Trump has proposed spending $1 trillion on infrastructure, with plans to repair and improve U.S. roads, bridges and airports. With that focus in mind, there are several sectors that are poised to benefit the most from expanded infrastructure spending. Specifically, they include construction, utilities and the mining and logging industries, which provide the raw materials needed for construction projects.
These rank among the industries that generally offer higher-paying jobs to workers, according to an analysis from New York–based Westwood Capital. Using data from the BLS, Westwood identified the sectors where better-paying jobs tend to be concentrated. (See: The 10 Highest Paying Jobs in America.)
Source: Westwood Capital
As you can see, mining and logging, construction and utilities all rated higher spots on the list. If infrastructure spending were to increase on the scale that President Trump is proposing, hiring in these industries may see an uptick. More job growth – and higher wages – could be a double boon for workers who are unemployed or underemployed.
Taking a closer look at the most recent jobs report, employment in the construction sector increased by 58,000 in February, with 36,000 new specialty trade contracting positions and 15,000 jobs in heavy and civil engineering construction. In total, the construction industry has added 177,000 jobs over the past six months.
By comparison, the mining sector added 8,000 jobs in February. Overall, mining employment has increased by 20,000 openings since reaching a recent low in October 2016. The utilities sector lost 1,000 jobs in February, but job growth in the renewable energy industry remains relatively strong. (See: Top 4 Alternative Energy Stocks for 2017.)
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than 1.9 million people are employed in jobs related to electric power generation and fuels, with another 2.2 million people working in industries related to energy efficiency. Employment in the solar energy industry increased by more than 20% annually between 2013 and 2015, and in 2016, the solar workforce increased by 25%. Employment in the wind energy industry grew by 32%.
A 50-item wish list submitted by President Trump as part of the infrastructure plan includes seven projects that are focused mostly on energy-related improvements. Senate Democrats have also drafted their own infrastructure plan, which earmarks $100 billion for power grid upgrades and “next-generation” energy infrastructure. Those initiatives could reverse recent employment drops in the utilities sector.
The Bottom Line
President Trump has suggested a 90-day deadline to get things moving on his infrastructure plan after states receive federal funding for proposed projects. Congress has already held one hearing on the plan, but the big question mark remains how to pay for infrastructure improvements. For now, job seekers should be keeping a close eye on how things develop and what a surge in infrastructure spending could mean for their future employment prospects.