Construction workers use an asphalt spreader to place the first layer of asphalt on a city street renewal project. Credit: Getty Images

New Report from UMass Amherst Political Economy Research Institute Shows Immense Job Opportunities and Workforce Needs Tied to Federal Infrastructure, Manufacturing, Climate Investments

Twenty occupations will face labor shortages, resulting in an anticipated shortage of 1.1 million skilled workers

A new report from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) examining labor supply, demand and potential shortages from sweeping legislation focusing on U.S. clean energy, manufacturing and infrastructure finds an anticipated labor shortage of nearly 1.1 million workers if steps aren’t taken now to entice and train workers — particularly women and people of color — to take advantage of these new opportunities. 

Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Robert Pollin
Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Robert Pollin

The analysis, authored by PERI research professor Jeannette Wicks-Lim and PERI co-Director and Distinguished Professor of Economics Robert Pollin, was commissioned by the National Skills Coalition and BlueGreen Alliance. It builds on a PERI analysis from September 2023 finding the combined investments in the three measures will create and support nearly 3 million jobs per year over their lifetime.

“Our study shows that the Inflation Reduction Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and CHIPS and Science Act are poised to generate a major expansion in job opportunities throughout the U.S. economy, especially in the country’s construction and manufacturing sectors,” Pollin said. “It is critically important to increase opportunities for workers — especially women and workers of color — to receive training, apprenticeships and related forms of support, including childcare and fair hiring practices, that will enable workers to take full advantage of these new opportunities.”

The new report quantifies the employment impacts of the three laws on the nation’s labor supply. Key findings include:

  • Roughly two-thirds of direct job creation is expected to take place in the construction (453,000) and manufacturing (230,000) sectors.
    • The job sectors that will see growth contrast sharply with how the economy has been trending. The manufacturing and construction sectors only represent 5.9% and 6.6% of employment in the overall economy, respectively.
  • Forty-eight specific occupations are likely to experience significant increases in demand through the direct jobs channel resulting from investments.
    • Of these, 27 have relatively higher entry requirements that will require formal training/credentialing.
  • Twenty occupations will face labor shortages, resulting in an anticipated total labor shortage of nearly 1.1 million workers if the investments reach their full anticipated levels without an expansion of newly qualified workers. This means there is still time to invest in training, apprenticeships and credentials associated with these jobs and related career pathways to help fill these positions.
  • As reported in PERI’s earlier study, 69% of jobs created by these three investments will be available to workers without a bachelor’s degree, compared with 59% of jobs in the entire U.S. workforce.
  • Women and people of color are significantly underrepresented in occupations created by these investments that are likely to face labor shortages.

The occupations that will experience the largest increases in the construction sector are laborers, operating engineers, electrical power-line installers and repairers, and carpenters. The jobs that will see the largest increases in the manufacturing sector are assemblers and fabricators, and electrical, electronic and electromechanical assemblers. 

“This report illustrates the tremendous opportunity these investments present for blue-collar workers in the U.S. It also allows us to shift workers from low-wage jobs with few benefits to careers in construction and manufacturing that can provide a better future,” said BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Jason Walsh. “Unions are already successfully bringing more women and workers of color into these occupations by targeting their outreach for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. But, realizing that opportunity will require increased training, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeships and postsecondary educational programs for workers — especially women and workers of color.”

The report also examined the current demographics of workers in occupations where demand will increase. In half of the 20 infrastructure-related occupations with estimated labor shortages, women make up 10%, compared with 47% in the entire U.S. workforce. In 15 of the 20 infrastructure-related occupations with estimated labor shortages, workers of color make up less than 39% of the total, which is modestly below that of the entire U.S. workforce.

“This new data underscores that we need a concerted, national effort to improve the training landscape, especially regarding jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree,” said National Skills Coalition CEO Robert Espinoza. “These training programs should also provide childcare and transportation, so workers can take care of their families and travel to a training program, and target women and people of color who remain underrepresented in many of these growing occupations. We need a holistic approach to make sure we have the workforce that meets the moment.”

The report’s findings are outlined in a data brief from the National Skills Coalition.

gregor semieniuk

Gregor Semieniuk, assistant research professor from the Political Economy Research Institute, joined representatives from ReImagine Appalachia and the United Electrical Workers to present the findings of a new report on the job-creation potential of green locomotive production in Erie, Penn., during a webinar held in April 2023.