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Construction Industry Headed for Stimulus Funding Cliff?

Today's roundup of stimulus coverage:

The Wall Street Journal's Gary Fields has today’s must-read stimulus story, which looks at the struggles of the construction industry as stimulus-funded transportation projects begin to wrap up. Fields finds a construction executive in Texas who captures the problem perfectly: "Having something to bid on is the lifeblood of the industry, and it's running out." The unemployment rate in the construction industry was 19.1 percent in October, nearly double the 10.7 percent of a year earlier. Fields reports that the state of the industry could prompt Congress to reconsider legislation funding new transportation projects, which had been pushed aside by health care and burgeoning worries over the deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office has released a report (PDF) measuring the impact of the stimulus on jobs and economic growth. The big takeaway: The stimulus generated between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs, and lowered the unemployment rate by 0.3 to 0.9 percentage points, Bloomberg reports. Meanwhile, the report says GDP was 1.2 to 3.2 percentage points higher than it would have been without the stimulus. But keen stimulus observers will fixate on the table in the report that provides a range of estimates for the economic multiplier of different kinds of stimulus spending. At the top of the list: government purchases, and transfer payments to state and local governments for infrastructure, which are both estimated to provide an economic boost of up to 2.5 times the original dollar amount.

Finally, extended health care benefits end today for thousands of laid-off Americans, the Associated Press reports. Under the stimulus, the federal government subsidized the cost of health care premiums under COBRA, a program that lets people keep their company's health insurance plan after they leave their job. (Acronym fiends will demand to know that COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.) The stimulus paid 65 percent of the cost of those premiums, but starting today that subsidy ends for workers who started getting it in March, the first full month the subsidy was available. The AP cites a report (PDF) by Families USA that finds the expiration of the subsidy will cause premiums to rise from $389 a month to $1,111 a month for the families affected.

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