When Donald Trump first announced his intention to build a huge wall on America’s southern border, many people saw it as a good idea. The wall will protect the country and keep out potentially dangerous illegal aliens. But the wall will also keep out the immigrant labor that has become the backbone of the construction industry in places like New York City. We previously wrote about that issue here. When you look at the impact a wall like that will have, the immediate and long-term effects are not pleasant.
The Trump Wall And Construction Labor
The best estimate the media can give for how much construction labor will be needed to build Trump’s wall is 40,000 laborers per year for four years. If Trump wants to build his wall faster, it will require more construction workers. The construction industry is currently enjoying the benefits of full financial recovery. Construction unemployment is at two percent, which is the lowest it has been in years. Trump’s wall will have several ripple effects throughout the construction industry that could be devastating for growing cities like New York.
Immigrant Labor Could Be Gone
Trump has indicated that he will actively seek out and deport the 11 million undocumented people who currently live in the United States. That means that the entire immigrant labor force in the United States would slowly disappear. This would be devastating to industries such as tourism and fast food, but it will be even more crippling for the construction industry.
In New York City as of 2007, 70 percent of the construction labor force is made up of immigrants. Many of those workers are either undocumented, or they are using work visas that Trump wants to get rid of. At a time when the New York City construction industry desperately needs workers, the Trump plan would remove a significant percentage of those workers from the construction industry.
Throughout the country, undocumented laborers make up approximately 20 percent of the workforce. When you weaken a workforce by that much, there is going to be an inevitable increase in wages. There may be a lot more jobs for Americans to look into, but the pace of construction will slow considerably and the need for workers will cause projects to regularly go behind schedule and over budget.
Supplies Would Become Expensive And Hard To Find
Trump’s wall is estimated to be 1,000 miles long and between 35 to 50 feet tall. At the high end, the price tag could be as much as $25 billion. As would be expected, construction supply companies near the border are salivating at the prospects of having a continuous stream of orders for many years.
The constant need for supplies to build the wall means that other commercial and residential projects in the border states will suffer. Over four years, the wall would consume an estimated eight million cubic yards of concrete and nearly five billion pounds of metal rebar. Trump’s own Trump International Tower in Chicago is currently the largest concrete structure in the world and it only contains 180,000 cubic yards of concrete.
Due to the lack of available construction workers and materials, construction on the border states would suffer significantly. Anyone wanting to build a house in any border state while the wall construction is going on needs to be prepared to pay significantly more than the house is worth just to get the project done.
The Wall Will Affect The Entire Country
There is also the concern of trying to put together 40,000 laborers and skilled laborers to complete the project. Construction wages, especially among skilled workers, are already on the rise and the wall will only make that worse. With Trump’s seemingly unlimited government resources, the wall project would be able to offer the highest wages in the country to attract the best workers. As the project draws in more workers from all over the country, construction everywhere will suffer.
The first inevitable side-effect of these actions would be that other construction companies will immediately need to raise their wages just to keep workers from going to work on the wall. For many smaller companies, this could mean going out of business or having to ask clients to pay more for projects already in progress.
Let’s remember that the president-elect Trump’s wall is estimated to take four years to build. In that time, the project will continuously attract workers and deplete the national workforce. The area where this will be most devastating is in the skilled labor arena. Engineers, steel cutters, high-altitude workers, and other specialists will find themselves having to make a decision about where they will work if they want to make the best money. The skilled construction labor force would be stretched to the breaking point, and thousands of small construction companies would suffer.
What About The Long-Term Effects?
The sudden infusion of 40,000 construction workers and their families into an area 1,000 miles long would create an era of prosperity in the border towns that has probably not been seen before. Along with all of the construction supply companies that will put new locations in the area to be closer to their new customer, the service industries will also grow rapidly in all of these areas.
While the project is going on, these formerly sleepy border towns will suddenly burst to life and grow at rapid paces. Construction along the border, provided the work is done on the American side, would surge. Trump has not indicated who will build the wall yet. He insists that Mexico will pay for most of it, but he has not indicated whether American or Mexican companies will build it.
The irony here is that if Trump utilizes American workers to build the wall, then the lack of undocumented immigrant construction workers will have a devastating effect on the entire American economy. The results could be the same if Mexican construction workers decide to go back home to build the wall and leave their jobs in places such as New York City.
Projected Life After The Wall Is Complete
After the wall is completed, all of the construction and growth in the border cities will stop. After four years of struggling, the construction industry may have worked to fill its need for skilled workers and those who gave up their jobs to build the wall may come back home to no jobs being available. The sudden bulge and then contraction in the construction industry labor market for a project like this is a consequence that could be as damaging as the initial effect of losing all of those laborers to build the wall in the first place.
On the surface, Trump’s wall sounds like a great way to generate thousands of jobs and help bring temporary prosperity to a part of the country that may need it. However, when you look deeper at what politics could be doing to the construction industry, you realize that there is not enough skilled labor in the United States to go around and the long-term effects of this wall could be horrible.
If the wall project is approved, it may force the construction industry to find alternative ways of training qualified skilled workers to do other projects. But what happens when the wall is built? One way or the other, it looks like Donald Trump’s wall is going to put a terrible strain on the construction industry and cause a lot of workers to put themselves in positions where work after the wall could be impossible to find.