Trump Eyes $1.5T Infrastructure Investment, Hiring Up to 414,000 Additional Workers

By Susan Jones | March 29, 2018 | 5:16am EDT
President Trump is off to Ohio on Thursday to discuss his infrastructure plan. (File photo/Screen grab)

( - President Donald Trump is going to Richfield, Ohio today to discuss his infrastructure initiative before an audience of "hardworking Americans" at a training site for members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 18.

In a report released on Wednesday, the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) said the president's proposal envisions using $200 billion in federal funds to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments. The report also discusses "congestion pricing" for roads and landing slots at airports, where tolls or charges would rise during peak use.

Senior administration officials, speaking on background, held a conference call with reporters on Wednesday to discuss highlights of the president's plan, as follows:

A $1.5 trillion investment would likely result in the employment of 290,000 to 414,000 additional infrastructure workers on average over a 10-year window. The program would disproportionately benefit workers with few years of education. Sixty-two percent of infrastructure workers in 2016 had a high school degree or less, compared with 32 percent of the non-infrastructure labor force.

Workers with fewer years of education saw record low unemployment rates during the Trump administration's first year, but there's still plenty of room for improvement, and workers with less education have persistently high unemployment rates.

CEA estimates that 350,000 infrastructure workers are currently unemployed and available to fill the positions, if we could just expand our infrastructure spending.

The officials noted that median hourly wages for workers without a college education are 14 percent higher in infrastructure occupations, and skilled trade occupations are particularly lucrative, with those workers earning 34 percent more than other workers with their education level.

They urged states to relax their licensing requirements for infrastructure occupations so workers are better able to work across states lines, thus enhancing their ability to pursue career opportunities.

In response to questions, the officials said the public-private infrastructure plan is a priority for the president: "We hope to get a big chunk of the plan done this year, but whatever we're not able to get through this year we'll take up again next year. We never anticipated this was going to be a quick or easy process, and the president just absolutely is in this for the long haul."

The officials said having Congress pass bills is critical, but so is speeding up the permitting process, which the president can do on his own. "We're not talking about doing things that endanger the environment in any way," one official added.

President Trump will speak to members of a trade union representing heavy equipment operators, mechanics and surveyors in the construction industry, and also stationary engineers who work in operations and maintenance in buildings and industrial complexes.

According to an analysis by the Council of Economic Advisers, a 10-year $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment program could add between 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points to annual average gross domestic product growth.

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