U.S. hourly construction wage soars

By Leila SteedDecember 09, 2022

Construction workers’ average hourly wage in the U.S. is increasing faster than those of people employed in other sectors, according to analysis of new U.S. government employment data.

Looking at the latest Employment Situation Summary from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) found that hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers in construction had risen by 6.1% over 12 months, from $31.04 in November 2021 to $32.94.

That increase exceeded the 5.8% rise in average pay for all private-sector production workers. The average construction worker now earns 17.2% more per hour than the average private-sector worker.

Record construction employment

In November 2022 the total number of people employed in the U.S. construction sector reached a record 7.75 million people – 248,000 higher than at this time last year.

With 20,000 industry workers hired during last month alone, the sector’s unemployment rate is also dropping.

“The number of unemployed construction workers fell by 16%, from 469,000 in November 2021 to 393,000 in November of 2022,” according to AGC’s statement on the analysis, which added that the unemployment rate among jobseekers with construction experience has also decreased from 4.7% last year to 3.9% last month.

Ken Simonson, chief economist at Associated General Contractors of America, described the drop in unemployment rates for the sector as “heartening” to see, adding that the number of available jobs in the sector was continuing to “outpace hiring, suggesting employers wanted to bring on many more workers than they are able to find.”

Need for twice as many hires

The association also referenced another report released by the U.S. government, which shows there were around 377,000 construction-sector job openings at the end of October 2022, but that the number of employees hired during the month totaled significantly less, at 341,000.

Simonson said the excess of job openings over hires indicated the industry wanted to hire more than twice as many workers as it was able to find in the current low-unemployment environment.

With rising prices, interest rates, supply chain issues and the U.S. construction sector now starting to see indications of downturns in homebuilding and most major non-residential categories, the AGC pointed out that more still needs to be done to address the industry’s longstanding construction skills and labor shortages.

“Too few students are exposed to construction career opportunities in school as educators encourage most students to pursue college degrees and office jobs,” AGC’s statement warned. “As a result, high-paying construction positions remain unfilled while many college graduates struggle to pay off student loans in lower paying jobs.”

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