The labor market recovery from COVID-19 continues to be challenging in many industries and professions. Job growth has been slower than expected in recent months during the spread of the Delta variant. Simultaneously, many industries—particularly with lower-wage jobs—are struggling to attract and retain workers. Despite increasing wages and an abundance of job opportunities, many workers remain on the sidelines, with labor force participation down by more than 3 million compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Construction is one industry that has struggled to navigate these unusual economic conditions. The need for construction workers is at its highest level in years as the industry attempts to keep up with increased consumer demand, especially in the residential market. Though construction jobs pay better wages than many other professions with similar educational requirements, employers still have not been able to attract the workers they need. One industry analysis found that 70% of construction employers report difficulty filling craft labor positions, despite raising wages, creating workforce development partnerships, and changing hiring practices.
The shortage of construction workers did not begin with COVID-19, but the pandemic has exacerbated hiring challenges in a way that could continue to affect the construction industry in future years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that overall jobs in the construction and extraction industry will grow by 5.7% between now and 2030. The growth rate for construction laborers, who perform physical labor at construction sites, is estimated to be 8.0% over the same period, exceeding the rate for most other skilled or managerial positions in the construction field.
To the extent that wages do drive employers’ ability to attract construction workers, firms in some states could fare better than others. States with strong union presences or prevailing wage laws are typically among those with the highest wages for construction laborers. For these reasons, Illinois is the clear leader in construction laborer wages in the U.S., with a cost-of-living adjusted hourly rate of $27.47—beating the national median wage for the profession by more than 50%. Many of the same factors hold in local markets, which is why the best-paying cities for construction laborers include the Chicago and St. Louis metros, both of which are contained partially or entirely in Illinois.
The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To determine the best-paying locations for construction laborers, researchers at Construction Coverage calculated the median hourly wage for construction laborers, adjusted for cost-of-living differences. In the event of a tie, the location with the higher unadjusted median hourly wage for construction laborers and/or unadjusted median hourly wage for all construction workers was ranked higher.
The analysis found that construction laborers in California earn a cost-of-living adjusted median hourly wage of $19.49. Here is a summary of the data for California:
- Median hourly wage for construction laborers (adjusted): $19.49
- Median hourly wage for construction laborers (actual): $22.69
- Median hourly wage for all construction workers (actual): $28.17
- Cost of living (compared to average): +16.4%
- Concentration of construction laborers (compared to average): -12.0%
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Median hourly wage for construction laborers (adjusted): $18.22
- Median hourly wage for construction laborers (actual): $18.22
- Median hourly wage for all construction workers (actual): $23.37
- Cost of living (compared to average): N/A
- Concentration of construction laborers (compared to average): N/A
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Construction Coverage’s website: https://constructioncoverage.com/research/best-paying-cities-for-construction-laborers-2021
Mike LaFirenza writes for Lattice News Wire