According to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, total construction spending in the United States amounted to $667.9 billion during the first six months of 2020. While this total represents a 5 percent increase over the same period in 2019, spending has decreased by about $86 billion since the onset of the pandemic in February.
Despite the overall decline, in some instances, construction activity has actually been able to ramp up as a result of quarantine measures throughout the country. For example, construction workers in San Francisco took advantage of a 35 percent decline in regular weekday traffic to replace an 800-foot-long bridge portion of Highway 101. This project, originally slated for July, began several months early and was completed in less than two full weeks.
Still, since February, the construction industry has lost 444,000 jobs. While much of the labor force has been strained amidst widespread lockdowns beginning in March, historical records show that recessions tend to be especially challenging for construction workers. During the Great Recession, total construction employment experienced a decline of about 20 percent over a span of just 19 months. Encouragingly, total construction employment numbers have experienced a slight uptick in the past three months, following increases in residential building permits and new home sales, two strong indicators of continued growth in construction employment.
Despite being highly reactive to broader economic trends, the construction industry generally compensates its workers well, especially when considering that few construction workers have a postsecondary degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, on a national level, full- and part-time wage and salary construction workers earn a median of $47,430 per year, which is about 19 percent more than the median wage of $39,810 for all occupations. For reference, all full-time workers in the U.S. with only a high school diploma earn about $38,800 annually, and those with less than a high school degree earn just under $31,000.
At the state level, the Midwest claims the highest median wages for construction workers. After adjusting for cost of living, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio all rank among the highest-paying states for construction workers. Alaska and Hawaii are also among the best-paying cities for construction workers. Illinois pays the most with a median adjusted wage of $71,111, compared to a low of just $38,151 in Florida. Southern states such as Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and the Carolinas all pay less than $45,000 per year.
To determine which states are the best-paying for construction workers, researchers at Construction Coverage, a review site for construction management software and commercial auto insurance, analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics survey. For each state, researchers calculated the adjusted median wage for construction workers by factoring in the relative cost of living. The report also includes the unadjusted median wages of construction workers and all workers, as well as the total number of construction workers employed, and the cost of living.
The analysis found that in Ohio, the adjusted median annual wage for all construction workers is $55,701. Out of all U.S. states, Ohio is the 8th best-paying for construction workers. Here is a summary of the data for Ohio:
- Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $55,701
- Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $49,240
- Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $38,560
- Number of construction workers: 187,600 (3.4% of total employment)
- Cost of living: 11.6% below average
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $47,430
- Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $47,430
- Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $39,810
- Number of construction workers: 6,194,140 (4.2% of total employment)
- Cost of living: N/A