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Study finds infrastructure jobs focus too narrow

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The economic argument that government can create construction jobs quickly by investing in infrastructure doesn’t begin to capture the employment benefits of infrastructure, a new Brookings Institution study reports.

Most of the jobs created by infrastructure investment in the nation and in Albuquerque are held by people who operate infrastructure systems and facilities.

The vast majority of the 33,770 workers in Albuquerque who owe their jobs to infrastructure are employed in operations. These include everyone from meter readers employed by electric, gas and water utilities to highway maintenance workers to transportation security personnel. Only 4,970 Albuquerque area jobs in 2012 were involved in infrastructure construction, according to Brookings.

The report said 9.7 percent of Albuquerque area workers have infrastructure-related jobs.

Brookings found that laborers and freight, stock and materials handlers and movers accounted for 3,740 infrastructure jobs in the Albuquerque area. More than 5,500 workers drove trucks and delivery service vehicles. Thousands more operated buses, taxis and other transportation service equipment.

“By limiting infrastructure employment to construction alone, and viewing it largely in terms of stimulus spending, policy makers have not considered the breadth of infrastructure jobs found across the U.S. economy,” the report said.

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Brookings found that “infrastructure employment spans across a variety of public and private sectors – from pipelines and railroads to warehouses and utilities – containing an array of jobs that pay competitive wages, have low barriers of entry and are expected to grow in years to come.”

Nationally, 14.2 million workers were employed in infrastructure jobs across the country in 2012, accounting for 11 percent of national employment. Trucking, electrical contracting and civil engineering are among the occupational sectors employing the most workers overall.

Brookings reported that 77 percent of workers nationally “focus on operating infrastructure,” 15 percent have infrastructure construction jobs, 6 percent design infrastructure, and 2 percent are involved in governance.

Brookings classifies jobs such as forester and hydrologist as governance work.

Infrastructure occupations are projected to increase 9.1 percent during the next decade, including the need to replace more than 2.7 million workers, “led by fast-growing occupations such as wind turbine service technicians and solar photovoltaic installers,” the report said.

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