A report released Friday by the Brookings Institution shows New Orleans as having one of the leading workforces in infrastructure business in the nation. The jobs that fall under that new category are paying high wages and are expected to last for several years.
The nonprofit research group used Labor Department figures from 2012 to determine jobs that would fall under the new infrastructure umbrella designation. It includes all workers involved in roads, bridges, ports, transportation and other related industries.
Lead study author Joseph Kane says those workers range from laborers to architects. And they account for one in every 10 jobs nationally.
Kane says the New Orleans region ranks 14th on a list of 100 metropolitan areas in the US, with 63,000 workers — or 12.8 percent of the local labor market — involved in supporting infrastructure. In contrast, 75,000 jobs in the hospitality industry in 2012 accounted for 14 percent of New Orleans-area jobs.
Kane says infrastructure is not just short-term disaster recovery jobs.
“When we look at Hurricane Katrina and other extreme weather events we’re kind of turning our attention to infrastructure, when really we need to be looking at these investments and at these workers for years," Kane said. "On a day to day basis they are the ones who are supporting the foundation for really our local businesses, for everyone to really get to work every day, and to ultimately propel growth for the future.”
Kane says local and state governments must step up with better training and education programs for trades, like plumbers and electricians who earn higher wages than unskilled workers. And studies show that about a quarter of the current infrastructure workforce is getting ready to retire.