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Brookings: Expanding Opportunity Through Infrastructure Jobs

In the face of dour news about stagnant wages, rising inequality, and a vanishing middle class, metropolitan areas are raising local minimum wages, experimenting with new apprenticeship programs, and considering a range of other development tools to tackle their workforce challenges. Collectively, these strategies represent crucial steps to boost incomes and improve economic mobility during the recovery. In the same way, infrastructure investment is supporting more and better jobs throughout the country, drawing from a variety of efforts across the public and private sector.

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. 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. With continued uncertainty at the federal level, many states and localities are delaying construction projects and remain trapped in a cycle of deferred maintenance that hurts thousands of employers and workers alike.

The need to invest in U.S. infrastructure has never been clearer, making it all the more critical to take a fresh look at infrastructure’s importance to the labor market, both to drive long-lasting growth and to expand economic opportunity across the entire workforce—two elements often missing from the current narrative on infrastructure and jobs.