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D.C. Workers Missing Out on Construction Boom

Good Jobs First illustration

Unlike other major cities where local construction workers share the benefits of a building boom and make up a large portion of the construction workforce, residents of the District of Columbia are grossly underrepresented on area construction sites where suburban residents hold a disproportionate share of the jobs, according to a new report.

The study, Taxation Without Employment: The Case for the District’s Strong Local Hiring Rules, published this week by Good Jobs First and commissioned by the Laborers (LIUNA), finds that recently strengthened local hiring rules could reduce the gap, but much remains to be done to implement the new policy.

Thomas Cafcas, researcher at Good Jobs First and author of the report, says:

The failure of area contractors to employ District residents is shocking. With so much money being spent on public works, taxpayer-subsidized real estate development and job training in the District of Columbia, it’s important to ensure that those public investments maximize job creation for the city.

District residents work in the construction industry at less than half the rate of those who live in the D.C. suburbs. If District residents participated in construction employment at the same level as their suburban peers, 11,500 more District residents would be on construction sites. As a result, the District’s economy would benefit from an estimated $386 million in additional wages.

Such underrepresentation is not the norm. Just 2.9% of all District workers are employed in the construction industry, a much lower percentage than residents of Baltimore, Boston, New York City or Philadelphia. Yet workers who live in D.C. suburbs are more likely to be employed in construction than their suburban counterparts in other Northeastern cities.

“This study clearly indicates that the District needs local hiring requirements,” said D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Chair of the Council’s Committee on Jobs and Workforce Development and advocate for creating employment opportunities for D.C. residents.

We have more than 30,000 unemployed men and women in the District, including 4,500 Ward 5 residents seeking work. Based on my conversations with constituents, I believe that many are ready to pick up a shovel and get to work—they just need a chance to prove themselves.

The study is available online at

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