WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economic recovery act enacted in February has yet to deliver on a key promise made by supporters such as President Barack Obama: creating thousands of jobs through transportation and infrastructure projects.
According to a report released by the House of Representatives Transportation Committee on Wednesday, funding for transportation and infrastructure in the stimulus plan has only “created or sustained” 1,288 jobs.
That may change once bids are approved for projects and more money set aside. Only 30 states have begun work on projects authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to the committee’s data, which was collected before March 31.
Obama pushed to dedicate $38 billion of the plan’s $787 billion funding to capital projects that could be started immediately in the hopes of allaying painfully high unemployment levels in construction and related work.
Even though the pace of job creation is small so far, it is vital, said a construction workers union.
“The economic recovery program is providing a glimmer of hope for workers in the construction industry,” Jacob Hay, spokesman for Laborers’ International Union of North America, said. “It will take some time to fully reverse a construction job loss trend that has so far resulted in 21.1 percent unemployment in the industry and has left 1.9 million construction workers looking for a job.”
According to the Labor Department, the construction industry, which has been hit hard by the housing downturn, lost 107,000 jobs in February alone, the month the recovery bill was signed into law. It lost another 126,000 jobs in March.
Texas has reaped the largest job benefit — 704 positions — from the act. California, which lost the most jobs of any states in March at 62,100, told the committee the stimulus had saved or made 163 jobs within its borders.
Illinois has yet to see an employment boost, despite its ranking by Stateline.org as the leader in the “quest to get the most federal transportation recovery dollars the quickest.”
According to the nonprofit news outlet, Illinois had won approval from the federal government for 249 projects and $606 million as of last week.
South Carolina, led by one of the plan’s most vocal critics, Gov. Mark Sanford, has yet to earmark any of the $486 million allocated to it for highway and public transit work, according to the committee. It also has not put a project out to bid.
Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Leslie Adler