Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Saving Construction Jobs in Kentucky Through Energy Efficiency Programs
Press Release

RELEASE: Saving Construction Jobs in Kentucky Through Energy Efficiency Programs

New report details how energy efficiency retrofits can help save the construction industry in Kentucky, a state that has seen a loss of 27.4 percent of construction jobs from peak construction employment to last December.

Washington, D.C. – National unemployment dipped below 10 percent in January, but workers in the building and construction trades have yet to feel any recovery. The jobless rate among construction workers actually jumped to nearly 25 percent total construction payroll employment has fallen by 2.1 million jobs since it’s peak in 2006, with employment in residential construction shedding 38 percent of jobs. Kentucky has seen a loss of 27.4 percent of construction jobs from peak construction employment to last December.

Today, the Center for American Progress alongside Home Performance Resource Center is releasing a report on the job-creating opportunity that the HOME STAR program can create and the scope of the "tool belt recession" in United States.

This “tool belt recession” has a deep and far-reaching impact on communities. It touches every state in the union and hits local economies hard. It spills over to other parts of the economy as well. Many factories are running at only half capacity, while unemployment in manufacturing industries tied to construction is higher than in manufacturing as a whole, with unemployment rates often running from 20 percent to 30 percent.

“With demand for construction jobs at near depression levels, stimulating consumer demand for residential energy efficiency is a smart business. It creates high-paying jobs for idled construction workers, boosts sales of American-made building materials, and saves consumers money,” said Bracken Hendricks, Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress, one of the report’s authors. “American companies are ready to hire back crews if we can jumpstart demand for projects. Home performance contracting for energy efficiency is one bright spot on the horizon for the building trades today.”

“The tool belt recession is devastating. There is an urgent need in every state of the union to generate skilled, high-paying, long-term construction and manufacturing jobs to grow our economy,” said Matt Golden, CEO of Recurve, a home performance retrofit contractor and co-author of the study. “But there is hope. As an employer in the hard-hit state of California, I have seen my efficiency business grow by 60 percent, even as the construction industry has lost over 35 percent of construction jobs, around me.”

The report’s authors call on federal policymakers to launch a national HOME STAR program which includes incentives for homebuyers to invest in the energy efficiency of their homes, which will jumpstart demand for labor. And they said that Congress could quickly act to create jobs with policies to expand investment in commercial and industrial energy efficiency and financing for retrofit jobs. The home performance builders’ Efficiency First industry association brought together more than 500 contractors from around the country to educate lawmakers on how they are creating jobs today through energy efficiency.

The tool belt recession by the numbers

Jobs in the construction sector and related industries are suffering more compared to other parts of the economy. Consider the following data on construction jobs:

  • The unemployment rate for experienced workers in construction was 24.7 percent in January 2010.
  • Total construction payroll employment has dropped by 2.1 million jobs since 2006, with residential construction down by 1.3 million, or 38 percent.
  • For 2009, 12.4 percent of all unemployed workers were previously employed in the construction industry.
  • There have been 134,000 jobs lost (10 percent) in construction-related retail, such as building supply stores and lumber yards, since December 2007, with 186,000 lost (14 percent) since July 2006.

To read the whole memo on the tool belt recession, click here.

To learn more about home star retrofits, read the HOME STAR 101 memo here.

Bracken Hendricks is available for comment. To speak with him, please contact Suzi Emmerling at 202-481-8224 or [email protected].



The Home Performance Resource Center is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed to conduct public policy and market research in support of the Home Performance industry. HPRC develops research materials for policymakers, energy program managers, and industry leaders to promote job creation, economic recovery, lower household energy bills, and deep reductions in residential carbon emissions through improved home energy efficiency. It is the goal of the Home Performance Resource Center to give professional contractors a voice in shaping public policy and setting smart standards for contractor and rater certification, business practices, energy retrofit performance, loading order, and other factors that will assure successful implementation of home energy retrofit initiatives nationwide.