U.S. News

Stimulus saves construction jobs: House panel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of jobs created or saved by infrastructure projects funded by the U.S. economic stimulus plan increased by more than 50 percent in July from June, according to a report on Wednesday.

A worker constructs a new home in Geneva, Illinois, June 23, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes

By the end of July, 77,470 jobs had been “created or sustained” by water, highway and public transportation projects, compared to slightly less than 50,000 jobs at the end of June, said the report from a House of Representatives committee.

A single state, Illinois, accounted for nearly a fifth of the total by creating or sustaining 15,388 jobs, according to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Midwestern state could use the boost. Illinois had an unemployment rate of 10.4 percent in July, well above the national rate of 9.4 percent, according to the Labor Department.

California, which was given a large share of the infrastructure funds included in the $787 billion stimulus plan, tallied 10,146 jobs. There have been 5,953 jobs created or sustained in Texas, which also received a significant portion of the transportation earmarks.

Wyoming ranked first when the committee considered the number of projects states had out to bid, under contract and underway.

Last month, the committee lashed out at Florida for delays in spending the money. But according to Wednesday’s rankings, the state is now moving faster than 17 others and Hawaii is slowest in processing projects.

The Associated General Contractors of America said on Monday that, while the states may be starting work, cities are lagging.

“It is difficult to understand why more communities aren’t moving to put their stimulus funds to work while they are experiencing these kinds of job losses,” Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The trade group analyzed city employment data and found that construction employment declined in 319 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas in July, while it increased in only 11 areas. The Labor Department reported in August that the construction industry shed 76,000 jobs in July.

According to a federal report on construction spending released on Tuesday, money put into public capital works dropped 0.7 percent that month.

After rising 3.1 percent in June, state and local construction spending fell 0.8 percent. Highway and street spending fell 1.0 percent and transportation spending was off 0.4 percent. Educational spending was down 1.3 percent from June.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Kenneth Barry