30% of Infrastructure Jobs Hard to Fill, New National League of Cities Report Finds

September 21, 2021

Job openings set to reach historic levels with proposed federal infrastructure bill, raising concerns about the ability of the labor market to meet demand.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an analysis of the current infrastructure job market, a new National League of Cities report finds that 3 in 10 infrastructure jobs are hard to fill, underscoring the need for Congress to include significant funding for workforce development in the ongoing budget reconciliation process. The report, Hard-to-Fill Infrastructure Jobs: A Challenge to Building Our Future, notes that without such investments, the labor market will be challenged to absorb the immense anticipated demand resulting from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The report finds that infrastructure jobs make up a sizeable portion of all job postings nationwide and are harder to fill than those in other industries. An infrastructure job is one in which the work required is related to the design, construction or maintenance of infrastructure. Of the 6.2 million job postings between January and April 2021, nearly 650,000, or over 10 percent, were infrastructure related. It also takes longer to fill infrastructure jobs, with the median time to hire roughly 23 days compared with 19 days for jobs in other industries. Infrastructure jobs remain harder to fill than those in other industries, despite high competition across employers for talent and high wages that create a pathway to stability and prosperity.

Labor shortages, misalignment between workforce systems and industry needs, a large wave of retirements and lack of education about careers in the trades create significant employment challenges for the infrastructure industry. Moreover, many workers do not have access to the skills training and development programs necessary to build experience for higher level positions, limiting career pathways to higher and more stable employment and pay. Early estimates of the proposed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act found that the legislation would create or save 15 million jobs over the next decade.

“Investing in roads and bridges without investing in people risks undermining the critical spending on our country’s crumbling infrastructure. The workforce we currently have is not able to meet our country’s needs or ambitions. Our workers and employers need committed partners, including the federal government, to invest proportionally in people, not just projects,” NLC Executive Director and CEO Clarence E. Anthony said upon the report’s release. “Local leaders are driving practical, local solutions to address workforce needs in their communities, and Congress must also do its part by including meaningful provisions to strengthen workforce development in reconciliation.”

NLC’s data underscores the need for Congress to include funding for workforce development in the reconciliation package and other future legislation. Disinvestment over time in workforce training and technical education has left the industry with a limited pipeline of trained talent. Moving quickly to bridge this spending gap can have an impact quickly on open positions. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 60 percent of the needed infrastructure jobs require six months of training or less. Aligning training opportunities to priority jobs can help connect workers to the skills they need to meet America’s infrastructure needs.

To read the full Hard-to-Fill Infrastructure Jobs: A Challenge to Building Our Future report and to explore infrastructure jobs data by Congressional District with NLC’s new data tool, click here.

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The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.