With President Barack Obama's signature on recent legislation, he preserved a number of construction jobs across the country by extending several highway transportation renovation projects, which he says will "make a real difference" for millions of Americans.
According to The Associated Press, Obama signed the bill while surrounded by scores of unemployed construction workers, and stated that he was confident that "this bipartisan spirit spills over into the next phase" of bills.
"There's no excuse for inaction when there are so many Americans still trying to get back on their feet," Obama said, adding that the transportation bill "will make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans."
The transportation bill includes a number of major reforms that will help construction projects breakthrough red tape and eliminate duplicative programs. This will open new funds to be used for federal highway, transit and highway safety programs, resulting in higher construction staffing.
"Critical reforms in this legislation consolidate our transportation programs, significantly streamline the bureaucratic project process, encourage private sector participation in building infrastructure, and give states more flexibility to spend limited Highway Trust Fund resources where they are most needed," said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica.
Mica added that putting a highway construction project together can take up to 15 years from conception to completion, however only a small portion of this time is actually spent in the construction phase. To expedite the rest of the phases, the bill plans to introduce a set of new rules, including setting deadlines, setting a funding threshold and new regulations that would classify projects and give priority to certain ones.
The bill also incentivizes states to work with the private sector to begin construction projects.
Although the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed construction employment was relatively unchanged in June, unemployment in the sector has dropped significantly compared with levels one year ago. The data show unemployment in the construction industry has dropped from 14.2 percent in May to 12.8 percent in June.
The total number of unemployed construction workers currently sits at 1.04 million, falling from 1.32 million measured in the same period in 2011. At that time, unemployment in the construction sector had grown to a staggering 15.6 percent.