Study: Construction Can Help Rebuild Middle Class

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construction workersBy David Schepp

As the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests show, many in America's middle class are angry about the uneasy economic circumstances in which they find themselves. Most typical wage earners have endured decades of stagnant wages even as costs for food, health care, housing and college tuition have continued to rise.

In short, average Americans are feeling pinched and far less wealthy than they once did. But there is a way to help reinvigorate the middle class while also rebuilding the nation's failing infrastructure, a recently published study suggests, by seeking to include those who have been traditionally underrepresented in the construction industry.

That aim is being achieved in many places across the U.S. through what are known as community workforce agreements (CWAs), according to a study by Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

First put in force early last decade, CWAs are a form of project labor agreement (PLA) -- contracts that establish work rules on a project-by-project basis -- that have been used for decades by many governments. But CWAs go further, as principal researcher Maria Figueroa recently noted at a press conference in Manhattan, by targeting specific populations for employment on private- and public-sector construction projects.

"The findings of our study indicate that -- particularly since 2004 -- PLAs are becoming comprehensive in their scope," Figueroa said, adding that the most likely used workforce provisions include the training and hiring of veterans, minorities, women, low-income earners and local residents.

Read the full story on AOL Jobs.

See also:
Report: Home Prices Up in Half of U.S. Cities
Obama's Refinance Plan Explained
Viewpoint: Obama's Drop-in-the-Bucket Idea for Housing

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Study: Construction Can Help Rebuild Middle Class

> Unemployment rate: 10.4%
> Change in unemployment from pre-recession low: +5.8%
> Median household income: $85,020


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Although San Jose has an exceptionally small education gap, it has an above-average unemployment rate. This is because the city’s manufacturing sector took a major hit during the recession. The city’s population is highly educated due in large part to the technology industry. Cisco Systems is headquartered in the city, which has been nicknamed the “Capital of Silicon Valley,” and other large tech companies, such as IBM, employ many people there.

> Unemployment rate: 7.5%
> Change in unemployment from pre-recession low: +3.7%
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Minneapolis’s education gap is kept small by the University of Minnesota, which is located in the metropolitan area, and by a number of successful local companies that continue to hire. Six different Fortune 500 corporations are headquartered in the city, including Target, U.S. Bancorp and Ameriprise Financial. Unemployment increased 3.7% since the pre-recession low — a small amount relative to most of the country’s metropolitan areas.

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> Change in unemployment from pre-recession low: +3%
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The Boston metropolitan area is home to some of the top schools in the world, including Harvard, Tufts and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These schools support the area’s demand for a highly educated workforce. Boston has highly developed health care and education industries. Both fields have been among the most resilient during the recession, according to Brookings.

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> Change in unemployment from pre-recession low: +5%
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Seattle is considered one of the most literate cities in the U.S. There are nearly 20 colleges and universities within the city limits. It is also home to several large companies, including Starbucks, Amazon.com and Microsoft, which is the second-biggest employer in the city. Boeing relocated its corporate headquarters to Chicago some years ago, but still remains Seattle’s biggest employer, which is why the city is often called “Jet City.”

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> Change in unemployment from pre-recession low: +5.8%
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> Change in unemployment from pre-recession low: +4.5%
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Washington D.C. has both resilient industries and an extremely low education gap. The metropolitan area is helped immensely by being the country’s capital. As of 2008, about one-third of the jobs in Washington D.C. were with the federal government, according to the Department of Employment Services. The metro area is also home to many educational institutions, such as Georgetown University and George Washington University.

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