Investments in infrastructure could help long-term unemployed get back to work
A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts explores the prevalence of long-term unemployment in the U.S., and the costs associated with this troubling subset of our unemployed workforce. According to the report, in the third quarter of 2011, approximately 31.8 percent of the nearly 14 million Americans who were unemployed had been jobless for a year or more.
In addition to the emotional and financial toll that long-term
unemployment takes on job seekers, this problem is also taking an
economic toll on our nation: According to the
Congressional Budget Office (CBO), spending on unemployment is projected to
total $120 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2011.
Though long-term unemployment is prevalent in almost every occupation, with more than 20 percent of workers in all industries experiencing periods of unemployment lasting a year or more—the report shows that certain industries have been hit harder than others. For example, in the mining, manufacturing, transportation & utilities, and financial activities industries, the percentage of workers who had been jobless for a year or longer is over 40 percent.
This report underscores the fact that we need to get Americans back to work—and quickly. One simple way to create jobs and get Americans back to work in industries with larger than average percentages of long-term unemployed workers—such as manufacturing—is to invest in infrastructure projects. A report produced for the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) by researchers at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst suggests that roughly 18,000 new jobs could be created for every $1 billion in new infrastructure spending. The Federal Highway Administration estimate is even higher: 35,000 jobs. The UMass study also notes that utilizing 100 percent domestic content (for components like steel, cement, etc.) would yield an additional 77,000 jobs nationally, including 69,000 in the manufacturing sector.
Our roads, bridges, highways and other crucial infrastructure are in dire need of repair, and thousands of Americans are in dire need of jobs. It’s time for Congress to connect the dots and kickstart legislation that will launch large-scale construction projects to improve our crumbling infrastructure and get Americans back to work.
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