Employment, Economic Opportunities
California currently has the second-worst unemployment rate in the nation, tied with New Mexico and New York at 7.6%. Federal infrastructure investment can help accelerate employment, boost the economy, and improve the lives of Californians.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) addresses our most pressing infrastructure challenges and is a job creator. President Biden signed this important piece of legislation into law on November 15, 2021.
How infrastructure investment helps
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) notes that the IIJA “is 100% infrastructure-related spending and addresses all 17 sectors that ASCE graded in the 2021 Report Card.” This includes issues that have become critical due to a systemic lack of investment. (ASCE gave California an overall grade of C- on its infrastructure report card.) The new spending would go toward:
- Roads and bridges (1,536 bridges and more than 14,220 miles of California highway are in poor condition)
- Rail and transit ($9.45 billion over five years)
- Broadband deployment ($100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state)
- Drinking and wastewater infrastructure ($3.5 billion over five years)
- Natural disaster prevention and mitigation ($84 million over five years to protect against wildfires and $40 million to protect against cyberattacks)
- Airport improvements ($1.5 billion over five years)
Plus, additional funds are allocated for dam safety; school modernization; improvements to ports and inland waterways, and $2.5 billion will be invested nationwide to expand electric power transmission lines and $3 billion nationwide for Smart Grid grants to upgrade our electrical grid to conserve energy.
American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) notes the impact from the $40.19 billion for highway, bridge, and trade investment made in California over the next five years will be “felt quickly as work gets underway.” Thousands of jobs will need to be filled by skilled laborers and support staff.
But the effects go far beyond construction jobs. The IIJA will also help national laboratories invest in science, technology, energy, environmental, and national security advancements. This is especially important in California where technological advancements in solar panels and computers have led the country.
When infrastructure is repaired, businesses are also more productive because their costs are lowered. The Brookings Institute notes federal infrastructure investment can have several other positive effects, including an increase in aggregate demand that “could put upward pressure on wages” and “would increase long-run productivity growth.”
Improving access to the internet with IIJA funds will also help those looking for work as:
- 55% of job seekers find online networks to be the most useful tool during their job search
- 79% of job applicants use social media in their job search
- 70% of hiring managers hired successfully through social media
More than five years ago, researchers at the Pew Institute expressed that “digital resources are now more important than ever to Americans’ ability to research and apply for jobs.” A new study now shows people in low-income families who were given discounted internet were more likely to seek and find work. “The economic benefits were calculated to be about $2,202 per enrolled household — more than four times the cost of providing the discounted internet service.”