According to a poll released last week, 51 percent of the citizenry would support a “large-scale federally subsidized nationwide construction program” to help boost the economy; meanwhile, America’s roads and highways are overburdened and under-maintained. Not coincidentally, President Obama’s new jobs proposal calls for $50 billion to be spent on infrastructure projects. Here, a breakdown of how much employment can be produced per freshly paved mile.
1. The Need
• 39%: Increase in traffic on U.S. highways from 1990 to 2009
• 4%: Increase in total miles of roadways in U.S. from 1990 to 2009
• 33%: Share of existing major roads listed as “in poor or mediocre condition” by the American Society of Civil Engineers
• 1,126,000: Number of unemployed construction workers (13.2 percent of that sector’s workforce is out of work)
2. How Many Jobs Are Created
The Federal Highway Administration says $1 billion of spending on roads supports …
• 9,536 construction jobs—workers on-site or at businesses that supply materials
• 4,324 jobs in supporting industries—workers down the supply chain who process raw materials used in construction
• 13,962 “induced jobs”—employment dependent on wages spent by workers in the first two categories
Critics of these figures are particularly skeptical of “induced jobs” figures, which can’t be tracked and are calculated via economic modeling.
And a recent George Mason study observed that stimulus construction jobs often go not to the unemployed but to those poached from other gigs or brought out of retirement.
4. Where the Money Goes
One of the easiest stimulus projects to get under way is resurfacing the aforementioned “poor or mediocre” stretches of blacktop—what Bruce Barkevich of the New York Construction Materials Association calls “freshening up” a road.
Here’s how $1 billion would get doled out on a hypothetical repaving of a two-lane, 24-foot-wide New York road using the state’s latest cost estimates, which cover both materials and labor.
$1 Billion = 3,022 Miles
• 65%: $213,945 per mile of asphalt laid, raked, and rolled
• 10%: $35,904 per mile of road striped with two white edge lines and double-yellow centerline
• 5%: $16,544 per mile in spending on flag men and other miscellany
• 20%: $64,486 per mile of old blacktop milled and hauled
5. The Bottom Line
It’s oversimplifying, certainly, but putting all the numbers together yields this ratio: 1 Mile = 9.2 Jobs