As of late-summer 2018, most states were seeing an increase in year-over-year construction jobs. Jobseekers can scrutinize three key factors when deciding where to seek employment and begin building a great career.
The construction industry is booming. Demand for employees is outpacing supply. Most companies are hiring, and many are offering increased compensation in order to draw talent to their companies. It’s a good time to build a career in the construction industry.
For those looking to do so, an interesting question to ask is: In which state should I seek employment? Given today’s economic/employment climate, perhaps a better question to ask is: Where shouldn’t I? The bottom line is that nearly all construction companies in all states say they are in hiring mode.
According to analysis of August 2018 Labor Department data conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 45 states added jobs from August 2017 to August 2018. Two states were flat (Alaska and Pennsylvania) while three experienced declines (New Jersey, Kentucky and Missouri).
Industry growth and job creation are positive things. However, they can also create some enormous challenges if new positions cannot be filled.
According to a 2018 member survey conducted by the AGC, roughly 93% of construction firms plan to hire new hourly craft personnel. In three-quarters of those instances, a company is adding to head count. The challenge for the industry is that 80% of survey respondents said they’ve been having a hard time filling those hourly craft positions. In other words, nearly all construction companies are looking for employees, and nearly all are having a difficult time finding them.
And it’s not just hourly craft positions either. According to the AGC survey:
- 75% said it’s becoming harder to fill salaried field positions
- 72% said it’s becoming harder to find salaried office staff, 61% hourly office staff
Here’s the kicker: Roughly 81% of construction companies don’t expect it to get easier to find craft personnel over the next year. Roughly 66% said the same thing about salaried and office personnel.
The labor drought is not isolated to certain regions of the country either. Roughly 81% of firms in the West and South are feeling it, 80% in the Midwest and 77% in the Northeast.
The construction industry’s problem is simultaneously a jobseeker’s opportunity. According to the AGC survey, construction companies are taking steps to help attract and retain quality employees:
- 62% have increased base pay for hourly craft personnel
- 56% have increased salaries
- 34% are offering bonuses to salaried personnel
- 25% are offering bonuses to hourly craft personnel
- 24% are offering improved benefit packages
Construction workers earn more faster
According to 2017 wage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),“construction trades workers” typically earn more than the average of all occupations. Typical starting hourly pay (10th percentile) is $12.72, roughly 32% more than the typical starting hourly pay among all occupations. Median pay for construction occupations is $20.91, roughly 15% more than the median for all occupations.
(Note: 10th percentile means 90% of workers earn more than that wage. Median means half of workers earn more than that wage.)
People seeking employment in the construction industry are often curious where the best jobs are. Obvious data like wages, job openings and projected growth play into that analysis. Many other factors also play a role in attracting construction workers, including competition for job openings, cost of living and quality of life. What is one worker’s definition of a “great state to work in” may differ from another worker’s.
The bottom line is that, based on AGC’s survey data, virtually all construction companies in all states are in hiring mode — and an employee can begin building a career almost anywhere. That said, construction professionals who are contemplating where to establish roots can look to a few key indicators.
Indicator #1: Average Wages
According to 2017 BLS data comparing mean state wages to mean national wages, the following states pay the best:
- Hawaii — $32.43 (+35% compared to the U.S. average)
- Alaska — $32.02 (+33%)
- Illinois — $31.44 (+31%)
- New York — $30.97 (+29%)
- Massachusetts — $29.68 (+24%)
- New Jersey — $29.19 (+22%)
- Washington — $28.10 (+17%)
- California — $27.89 (+16%)
- Minnesota — $27.72 (+15%)
- Connecticut — $27.30 (+14%)
Indicator #2: Employment
According to 2017 BLS data, the following states employ the most construction workers:
- California — 622,290
- Texas — 596,630
- Florida — 376,890
- New York — 332,420
- Pennsylvania — 217,180
- Ohio — 185,480
- Illinois — 176,110
- North Carolina — 157,810
- Virginia — 156,390
- Washington — 152,150
Indicator #3: Prospects for Growth
Construction professionals should also look at key drivers of sustained construction activity, advises Ken Simonson, chief economist for AGC. “Those drivers are population growth and economic growth,” he points out. “This is a lot different than, for example, a state that sees a lot of ‘temporary’ construction activity due to something like hurricane response.”
When looking solely at Real Construction GDP Growth from 2016-17, AGC’s data shows that the top 10 states are:
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
- New Mexico
When looking solely at Real Population Growth from 2016-17, AGC’s data shows that the top 10 states are:
- South Carolina
And the 10 best states for construction jobs are …
When examining the key indicators discussed above — identifying which states ranked most often and the highest — the following states are the 10 best for construction jobs as of late 2018:
- New York
- South Carolina
The bottom line is that there are a lot of good things happening in a lot of states where the construction industry is concerned. From better-than-average wages to better-than-average economic growth, construction professionals have a great deal of opportunity from coast to coast.
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CONEXPO-CON/AGG has released a downloadable eBook "The Ultimate Construction Career Guide" as a precursor to the upcoming CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020. The eBook is the culmination of numerous articles and guides that provides tips and expert advice to help men and women get started in the construction trades or flourish in your current role. There is peer-to peer advice from successful professionals at some of the best companies in the construction industry. Furthermore, experts in all things “HR” share their insight into the construction industry.