©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier

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US construction wage tops $30 an hour as employment soars

15 July 2019 | By GCR Staff | 1 Comment

Earnings for US construction workers now outstrip the private sector average as contractors face what’s being called one of the tightest labour markets they’ve ever experienced.

The situation has led a contractors’ group there to slam an education system that produces “too many over-qualified baristas and not enough bricklayers” as employers are forced to increase pay to attract skilled workers from a diminishing pool.

The nation’s education system continues to produce too many over-qualified baristas and not enough qualified bricklayers and other craft construction professionals– Stephen E. Sandherr, Associated General Contractors of America

Analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America showed that construction employment increased by 21,000 jobs in June and by 224,000, or 3.2%, over the past year, while the number of unemployed jobseekers with construction experience fell to a new low. 

At the same time, average hourly earnings in construction – a measure of all wages and salaries – increased 3.2% over the year to $30.73. That figure was 10.1% higher than the private-sector average of $27.90.

“Construction firms continue to go to great lengths to recruit and retain workers during one of the tightest labour markets many of them have ever experienced,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

“Making matters worse, relatively few school districts offer the kind of career and technical education programmes that signal to students that they should explore careers in high-paying fields like construction.”

The unemployment rate for jobseekers who last worked in construction declined to 4% from 4.7% in June 2018, and the number of such workers decreased in the last year from 466,000 to 390,000.

The analysis showed that most of the construction job growth during the past month and year came from the non-residential construction sector.

Non-residential contractors added 146,700 jobs during the past year, while residential contractors added 78,000 jobs in the year.

The association urged the federal government to help attract more people into high-paying construction careers by boosting funding for career and technical programs in schools and enacting immigration reform that allows more people with construction skills to legally enter the country.

“The nation’s education system continues to produce too many over-qualified baristas and not enough qualified bricklayers and other craft construction professionals” said Sandherr. “As a result of these educational imbalances, too many young adults are struggling to pay off college debts while too many construction firms are struggling to fill job positions that pay well and don’t require costly degrees.”

Image: ©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier