How many jobs are created from the construction of a new bridge or an increase in tourism?
The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ (BEA) new Web portal on the ocean and Great Lakes economy shows how the Bureau’s Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II) can be used to provide answers to such questions. The new Web site stems from a joint project with the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
RIMS II, a regional economic model, is used by investors, planners, and elected officials to objectively assess the returns to projects ranging from a new sports stadium to a new bridge. The returns include the short- and long-term increases in jobs and spending associated with the projects.
The idea behind the results of RIMS II is that an initial change in economic activity leads to additional changes in economic activity in other parts of an economy—for example, building a new bridge leads to increased production of concrete and steel. The increased production of concrete and steel leads to more mining. Workers benefiting from these increases may also enjoy bigger paychecks, so they may then spend more by eating out at nicer restaurants or splurging more on entertainment.
Planners and policymakers use RIMS II to compare the regional impacts that are likely to occur from proposed projects. That helps them make decisions related to the allocation of resources. That’s why RIMS II appears on the new Web site, which showcases BEA’s regional information on the ocean and Great Lakes economy. Findings based on the model are typically reported in “economic impact studies,” which are cited to support major spending decisions by both the public and private sectors.
The new Web portal highlights the wide range of questions that can be answered with the help of RIMS II. Here are a few of them:
- How many jobs are supported by the fish processing industry in Bellingham, WA?
- How much will workers’ earnings increase if an additional 500,000 tourists visited Myrtle Beach, SC, because of a developmental project to beautify its beaches?
- How much will workers’ earnings increase solely from the new spending of these tourists at local retail stores?
- How much will workers’ earnings increase if a new $2.5 million bridge was built to improve access to a public beach in St. Augustine, FL?
The examples also provide tips on how RIMS II can most effectively be used. The bridge example shows how the model can account for the specific details related to a particular construction project. Because the proposed bridge will be built out of precast concrete parts, the labor costs are relatively low for the cost of the project. By using the “bill-of-goods” method, the resulting estimate reflects the smaller impact the project will have on workers’ earnings across the region.