California could see hundreds of thousands of highway and transit-related jobs over the next five years due to the new Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act signed by President Biden last month. Importantly, some of the new jobs could promote much-needed economic mobility for California’s workers.

California is slated to get $25 billion for highways, $4.2 billion for bridge replacement and repair, and $9.45 billion for public transportation from the infrastructure plan. The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) says this new investment “is likely to spur economic activity across the state” and will “create new jobs in sectors that build and maintain the state’s infrastructure.” 

The California Alliance for Jobs agrees. “It’s going to be really substantial for California’s economy,” said executive director Michael Quigley. “We can see 75,000 to 100,000 jobs created annually from the federal infrastructure investment.” 

These new construction jobs are set to create substantial benefits for California’s workforce, including:

ECONOMIC MOBILITY

California’s infrastructure workers comprise 9.2% of the state’s total workforce. In a new report, PPIC found that “These workers are especially likely to have less than a bachelor’s degree” and are also “more likely to be Latino or Black than are other full-time workers across the state.” PPIC notes that this means some of the new infrastructure jobs “could promote economic mobility among workers with lower levels of education.” PPIC notes that this means some of the new infrastructure jobs “could promote economic mobility among workers with lower levels of education.” 

FULL-TIME WORK

Overall, infrastructure workers are more likely to be working full-time than other workers in California (61% compared to 43%). This opportunity for stable full-time jobs is good news, especially for workers with lower levels of education.

Talking SoCal Infrastructure, Innovation, Education and Housing with former OCBC President Lucy Dunn

WELL-PAYING JOBS

Those without college degrees can get paid more in infrastructure jobs. Many infrastructure jobs offer higher earnings to workers of all education levels, those with and without four-year degrees. PPIC found that fields that require training and skill – such as construction, installation, maintenance and repair, and architecture and engineering – typically pay about double the wages offered to less-skilled workers with the same level of formal education. 

Robbie Hunter of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 500,000 construction workers, believes the plan will lead to high-paying jobs. The bill includes a requirement that many of the projects funded pay workers a prevailing wage set by the state for each region. According to Jobs to Move America, the bill also allows cities and counties to prioritize hiring locally for federally funded construction projects, removing a prohibition set in the 1980s, which advocates for more equitable infrastructure spending.

STABLE CAREER PATHS 

Construction careers give workers “a level of economic security not found in other career paths,” Quigley said. “California’s construction trades are more than just a job. For hundreds of thousands of Californians from all walks of life, construction work is a career and a path to the middle class. Construction creates highly skilled, highly trained middle-class careers that support families and entire communities.”

Source: Sacramento Bee / Various