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President Obama touts transportation jobs, unveils 'recovery' emblem

March 3, 2009 |  9:25 am

President Obama, flanked by Vice President Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, talks to transportation employees about jobs created by his $787 billion stimulus package

The market was in free fall, the Dow on Monday falling to 50% below its peak in 2007.

The housing market was sinking, with the National Assn. of Realtors reporting today that seasonally adjusted pending U.S. home sales in January sank to a record low, falling 7.7%.

And the unemployment rate was inching toward double digits, already far past that in places like Detroit.

So today President Obama went to the Transportation Department to tout the job-creating benefits of his just-signed $787-billion stimulus plan. Flanked by Vice President Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Obama said that the recovery plan would unleash 200 new infrastructure construction projects within the next few weeks, creating 150,000 jobs by the end of next year, most in the private sector:

I want to begin with some plain talk. The economy's performance in the last quarter of 2008 was the worst in over 25 years, and frankly, the first quarter of this year holds out little promise for better returns. From Wall Street to Main Street, to kitchen tables all across America, our economic challenge is clear.

Two weeks after signing the bill, Obama came to the DOT to mark the release of $26.6 billion in recovery funds to states and local transportation authorities. Urging Americans to "hold us to account" by tracking projects on, Obama said, "Shovels are hitting the dirt."

Your Money at Work from White House on Vimeo.

And just in case taxpayers miss it, he also unveiled a new "recovery" emblem that will mark those new projects improving highways, bridges, high speed train service and Internet connections. It's a round, red-white-blue-and-green symbol that features a leafy branch and some stars from the American flag.

Read the White House fact sheet below on transportation jobs.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo Credit: White House

Office of the Press Secretary
March 3, 2009

FACT SHEET: Highway Spending from Recovery Act Expected to Create or Save 150,000 Jobs by End of 2010

• Many of these jobs will pay well above the national average.

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act is expected to create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year. Some of these jobs will come from direct spending by the Federal government to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, schools, and other parts of our national infrastructure.

One such investment calls for spending $28 billion on highway construction. This money will be allocated to states across the nation, helping to partly offset the job losses that have occurred throughout the country.

Using the same economic model that predicted the overall job growth, we find that this particular investment will lead to 150,000 jobs saved or created by the end of 2010.

It is also worth noting that jobs in highway construction tend to pay better than average. The typical, or median hourly wage for all jobs in the economy was $15.10 in 2007 according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But for workers in the highway industry, the typical hourly wage was $18.31, a premium of over $3 per hour over the economy-wide median wage.

Looking more closely at different types of jobs within the industry helps to explain the difference. The median wage of blue collar, or production workers—folks who do jobs like welding and mixing—comes to about $16 per hour in highway construction compared to about $13.50 in the overall economy.

There are two sources by which these jobs come about. First, there is the direct impact of building new roads and fixing old ones, leading to employment for persons who, in the absence of this investment, would be out of work. This effect is responsible for just under two-thirds of the jobs, about 95,000.

The second effect is an indirect one. It refers to the economic activity generated when these new workers spend more than they would have otherwise. For example, someone who gets a job fixing a road through the Recovery Act might buy more groceries or more apparel, and this leads to more activity by grocers and retailers. This effect explains about 55,000 of these jobs.

Finally, note that we say these 150,000 jobs would be “saved or created.” In some cases, current employees on highway crews or in other sectors where these workers spend money will avoid layoffs due to these investments. Had the Recovery Act not passed, they would have become unemployed. Other jobs will be newly created providing a new job slot that did not exist before.

A state-specific overview of the estimated infrastructure investments will be available on