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May 7, 2015 2:00 PM, EDT

Infrastructure Jobs Lift Economic Well-Being of Low-Income Workers, Brookings Study Says

Infrastructure jobs provide higher and more equitable wages for low-income workers compared with all job categories nationally, said a new report that makes the case Congress should approve a long-term transportation bill.

Such jobs, from laborer to bus and truck driver, lift the economic well-being of those with little education or training, said the report released May 7 by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

“These occupations have consistently paid up to 30% more to these workers over the past decade, most of who lack four-year college degrees,” said the report's authors, Joseph Kane, senior policy and research assistant, and Robert Puentes, a senior fellow.

“However, the federal transportation program is headed toward another financial cliff, and Washington is once again scrambling to find a patchwork solution for the crumbling roads, bridges and facilities whose maintenance is central to economic growth,” the report said.

“An oft-cited statistic, for instance, notes that every $1 billion in highway spending can directly and indirectly create up to 13,000 jobs a year,” the report said.

The existing law that funds the nation’s transportation system expires May 31, meaning that unless Congress passes a short-term extension or a new funding law, the federal government will be unable to reimburse the states for construction work.

So far, congressional leaders have not put forth a plan to address the impending crisis, nor have they presented a long-term funding plan for the nation’s transportation network.

In an analysis of 2013 federal job data, Kane and Puentes found that 11% of the nation’s 14.5 million workers that year were employed in infrastructure jobs.