Congressional failure to pass federal aviation legislation is putting roughly 70,000 construction and related jobs at risk by forcing a halt to $2.5 billion worth of airport construction projects, a top construction economist recently said. The halt of so many airport projects will have economically “devastating” impacts on the industry, warned Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America.

“With so few other construction segments doing well, halting an entire category of federally funded construction—airport projects—is exceptionally devastating economically for this industry,” Simonson said. “Tens of thousands of construction workers shouldn't have to suffer because Congress hasn’t figured out a way to work out its differences.”

According to an analysis conducted for the association by Prof. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University, the halting of $2.5 billion in construction projects puts approximately 24,000 more construction workers out of work. Another 11,000 workers in related service and supply businesses are also affected.

Additionally, as many as 35,000 jobs will be undermined in the broader economy, from the lunch wagon near the jobsite to the truck dealership across town.

Simonson said the halt was coming at a particularly difficult time for the nation's construction industry. He noted that contractors were suffering through the fifth year of a downturn and that over 2.2 million construction workers have lost their jobs since 2006.

The economist added that one of the few bright spots for the industry has been federal investments in infrastructure and construction.

“Federal investments in infrastructure have kept the floor from falling out from under contractors and their remaining workers,” Simonson noted.

Taxpayers are also going to suffer because of this shutdown, Simonson added. That is because the cost of the airport construction projects is likely to increase as contractors have to add the cost of securing projects and resuming work to the final bill.

He added that AGC of America will continue working with both parties in Washington to ensure that needed improvements to the nation’s airports resume as quickly as possible.