Over 31,000 People in Kern County Work in Infrastructure. What Does That Mean?
Twelve percent of Kern County’s workforce is employed in an infrastructure job. In the coming decade, that number is projected to grow even higher. According to The Brookings Institution, by 2022 the number of new infrastructure workers in America is projected to grow by 9 percent and nearly one quarter of current infrastructure workers will retire or otherwise leave their jobs, requiring 2.7 million new workers to replace them.
Employment in Bakersfield’s Infrastructure Occupations
It’s clear that infrastructure equals jobs. But what, exactly, is infrastructure? And what’s an infrastructure job?
While the term didn’t come into common usage until the 1980s, infrastructure has been a foundation of the modern world for a very long time. It is the set of underlying systems—like electrical grids, roads, sewer systems and shipping networks—on which our economy is built.
Brookings research defines infrastructure jobs across 95 different occupations and 42 industries. Each of these jobs helps directly support one of seven infrastructure sectors:
Intra-Metro Transportation includes local roads and bridges; public transit such as subways and buses; taxis and limousines; sightseeing transportation; and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure.
Inter-Metro Transportation includes passenger rail, airports, and highways, and inter-urban and rural bus transportation.
Trade and Logistics includes freight rail, air cargo operations, trucking, seaports/inland waterways, transportation support, and warehousing and express/local delivery services.
Energy includes the generation, transmission, and distribution of energy from natural gas (pipelines), facilities responsible for electricity (nuclear, hydroelectric, and solar/wind), and other utilities.
Water includes clean/drinking water, stormwater, wastewater, sewage/water treatment facilities, and “green” infrastructure critical to conserving related natural resources.
Telecommunications include broadband and transmission infrastructure (wired, wireless, and satellite), concentrated in facilities outside radio and television broadcasting.
Public Works include streetscapes, land redevelopment, and waste/landfills (solid waste, hazardous materials, and remediation).
More infrastructure jobs exist in “operation” than in “construction.”
- 77 percent of infrastructure workers are involved with operating infrastructure, compared to only 15 percent with construction, meaning that the majority of these workers focus on running facilities and moving supplies, rather than building or installing new structures.
- Of the 20 largest occupations in infrastructure, 13 are involved in operations. The two largest occupations are movers (freight and stock movers) and truck drivers.
Unsurprisingly, most infrastructure jobs are located in major metro areas.
- 64 percent of infrastructure workers are employed in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.
- New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—the nation’s three largest labor markets—have more infrastructure workers (1.8 million) than the smallest 55 metropolitan areas combined.
- Shares of infrastructure employment reveal distinct patterns in labor specialization in major metro areas. Seattle has the most avionics technicians, Richmond has the most nuclear engineers, and Chicago has the most septic tank servicers.
Summary of Findings
This report sheds new light on the widespread contributions that infrastructure jobs make to the nation’s economy, including their importance at the metropolitan level. Since many of these jobs offer more equitable wages, require less formal education for entry, and are projected to grow over the next decade, they represent a key area of consideration for policymakers aiming to address the country’s ongoing infrastructure and jobs deficit.