The infrastructure funding in President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan could create or save 15 million jobs in the next 10 years, with the majority of jobs going to blue-collar workers, according to an analysis by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.
"It's a chance for the Biden administration to reconnect with blue-collar America," Nicole Smith, chief economist at CEW and a co-author of the report, told Yahoo Money. "A lot of these jobs are the economic engine of the blue-collar economy. It's really is an opportunity to get those workers back in there."
The analysis, which evaluated the effects of the $1.5 trillion specifically allocated for infrastructure like the funding for transportation infrastructure, manufacturing, and broadband, estimated for both jobs saved and jobs created since it would be more difficult to estimate solely the number of jobs created. (A separate analysis by S&P Global estimated that Biden's plan would create 3 million jobs by 2029.)
Out of the 15 million jobs that would be created or saved, based on the analysis, 3.4 million jobs would be in the Southeast, 3.2 million in the Pacific Coastal region, 2.8 million in the Midwest, 2.4 million jobs in the Mid-Atlantic, 1.9 million jobs in the Southwest, and 713,000 jobs in New England.
"It's fair to say the South and Midwest [would see] the biggest job growth," Smith said. "California, Texas, Florida — these are some states that [would see] a large influx of those jobs just because of the size of the state."
Workers with lower education levels would benefit most: The funding would create or save an estimated 8 million jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less, 4.8 million for workers who have more than a high school degree but less than a bachelor's, and 2.25 million jobs for those holding bachelor's degrees and above.
"Of course you're gonna see jobs for civil engineer that environmental engineers, but the proportions of those jobs are much lower," Smith said. "Those jobs are dwarfed by how many opportunities there are for people who are in, rail track laying, maintenance operators. plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters."
Workers with lower levels of education were hit harder in the pandemic and have more jobs to recover compared to workers with higher levels of education. The unemployment rate for workers without a high school diploma over the age of 25 remains the highest among educations levels with 10.1%, followed by 7.2% for high school graduates and 3.8% for those with a bachelor's degree or higher in February, according to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"The majority of these jobs are low-education jobs in the sense that you need a high school diploma and three months of training," Smith said. "It's something that you can ramp up easily and that you can easily get the certification for if you have the appropriate level of access."
Beyond infrastructure, the $2.25 trillion proposal includes $400 billion for elder and disability care, $300 billion for manufacturing, $100 billion for broadband, $100 billion for power infrastructure, and more spent over eight years.
"All together along with the American Rescue plan, the proposal I put forward will create millions of jobs, estimated by some Wall Street outfits [to be] over 18 million jobs, good paying jobs, and also works to level the playing field, empower workers and ensure that the new jobs are good jobs that you can raise a family on ensure free and fair choice to organize and bargain collectively."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) responded on Thursday by asserting that he would "fight them every step of the way" in terms of making some or all of the proposal a reality.