But when it arrives, the money may help a recovery take hold more quickly.

"These stimulus dollars will help us on the upside and will help counteract the drag we're expecting from massive layoffs in state and local government and education," said Jerry Nickelsburg, principal economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

Nickelsburg said that he expects engineering companies to be among the first to benefit from the stimulus dollars because they are at the front end of projects.

"Engineering is a big industry here in Los Angeles, so this should help us," he said.

Engineering and construction giant Aecom hopes to benefit substantially from the stimulus package. In a conference call with investors last week for the release of its fourth quarter earnings, John Dionisio, Aecom's president and chief financial officer, said the company has about $3 billion worth of projects that have been fast-tracked and are ready to receive federal stimulus dollars.

Dionisio said that Aecom and its subsidiaries are working with state and local governments to help them prioritize their "shovel-ready" projects. But he said that he doesn't expect to see the stimulus funding entering the marketplace until the third quarter or fourth quarter of this year.

"To plan on anything more aggressive than that I think might be a little bit reckless at this point in time," he told investors.

Most of the stimulus dollars will likely have to be routed through state and local governments before reaching the engineering and construction contractors. And there may be political battles over spending priorities.

That is not a problem faced by federal contractors such as OSI or Northrop Grumman in Century City. Northrop executives are counting on the company's share of several hundred million dollars for completion of a satellite system to track climate change. As of Feb. 11, the money remained in the House version of the stimulus proposal, but was reduced in the Senate version. Northrop is jointly developing the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System with Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass.

Northrop spokesman Randy Belote said some of the stimulus dollars may go to fund the installation of additional sensors on the satellites. One of the main satellites in this system is currently being assembled at Northrop's Redondo Beach facility.

"We could have more employees there if this funding goes through," Belote said.

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