An End-of-Year Gift for PA Construction Workers: Tens of 1,000s of Jobs from the Infrastructure Bill

Stephen Herzenberg and Jeff Garis |

As 2021 ends, we are taking stock of what the federal government achieved this year. (See our list of 2021’s top 10 federal policy victories.) One major accomplishment was the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). In this blog, we present estimates of the number of jobs the act will create over the next decade. We do this by piggybacking on Economic Policy Institute (EPI) national job numbers and using a standard “rule-of-thumb” that Pennsylvania will gain about 4% (3.9% to be exact) of those jobs, based on our share of the U.S. population. Given that our infrastructure is in worse shape than most states—and given the political importance of Pennsylvania—we may get a bigger share than this.

Also, EPI’s national estimation method is conservative: it counts the (“direct”) jobs produced on infrastructure projects and in the supply chain (i.e., producing “intermediate inputs”). It does not count the jobs created when workers on infrastructure projects and in the supply chain spend their wages or when business owners spend their profits.

The table below shows the results. The IIJA would create about 30,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, many of them in non-residential construction. Pennsylvania has about 165,000 non-residential construction jobs (out of a total of about 250,000 construction jobs). That suggests the infrastructure bill will employ about one in 10 Pennsylvania non-residential construction trades. In effect, this will help ensure full employment for construction trades for a decade—and ensure that unionized trades work more than enough hours to maintain their health care benefits and a full year of credit annually towards a larger pension. (As long as trades work for at least 1,100 or 1,200 hours in a year in the seasonal construction industry, they typically maintain full benefits.)

If they want to say thank you, Pennsylvania workers on infrastructure projects should write to the members of Congress that voted for the bill—Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, all nine Pennsylvania Democratic members of Congress, and Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.—and to President Biden, who championed and then signed the bill.