The Infrastructure Sector Is Bleeding Workers

With an aging workforce and few new workers entering the sector, cities could find themselves short of the workers needed to build and maintain projects funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

1 minute read

January 2, 2023, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Construction Worker

Talbot Troy / Flickr

According to a Brookings Institution report, the infrastructure sector is facing a ‘silver tsunami’ as a large portion of the workforce reaches retirement age, prompting concerns about who will build the many infrastructure projects being pushed through thanks to federal funding. As Kery Murakami writes in Route Fifty, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 1.7 million people employed in the infrastructure sector will leave their jobs each year between 2021 and 2031.”

This is due in large part to the demographics of the infrastructure workforce. According to Murakami, “nearly three-fourths of transit and intercity bus drivers are 45 years old or older, as are 55.7% of power distributors and dispatchers and 53.8% of rail yard engineers.” The situation is even more dire in the transit sector, where “Up to 50% of bus maintenance employees are eligible to retire in the next three to five years.” Meanwhile, “Only 11% of infrastructure workers are 24 years or younger.”

The difficulty of infrastructure jobs also means fewer young workers are entering the industry, and more workers are opting out. “The number of workers leaving jobs in construction, transportation, warehousing, and utilities for other jobs grew by almost 20% last year.” 

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