The construction industry in the U.S. is undergoing significant demographic shifts. According to the 2021 American Community Survey, while salaries in the field are on the rise, the sector is struggling to attract workers aged 25 and younger compared to other industries, where the age group makes up more than 13% of the workforce. In contract, the construction industry sees only about 10% of its workforce in this age category.
Nearly a quarter of construction workers are 55 or older, a percentage that has grown from less than 20% in 2015 to approximately 22% in 2021. The median age of the construction workforce is 42 years old.
Compared to all industries, construction has a smaller share of younger workers but a larger proportion of individuals in their prime working years, between 25 and 54. Given that Generation X is a smaller generational group than Baby Boomers, the construction industry must continue its efforts to attract younger, skilled workers.
Interestingly, young workers who do enter the construction industry can earn salaries that exceed the median wage. According to the May 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) and an analysis by the National Homebuilders Association (NHBA), half of payroll employees in construction earn more than the national median wage.
In the U.S. the median wage currently stands at over $46,000, with the top 25% of earners making nearly $73,500. In the construction industry, these figures rise to $54,540 and $77,030, respectively.
Chief Executive Officers are the highest-paid workers in the construction industry, while architectural and engineering managers also enjoy substantial salaries, with more than half earning above $143,400.
Professions in the construction trades that require additional training tend to offer higher annual wages. Plumbers, for instance, earn a median wage of over $60,000 annually, with the top 25% making more than $79,000. Electricians see similar salary ranges. Even trades with less training, such as carpenters offer median wages that surpass the national median with half of those craftsmen earning more than $52,500 and the highest 25% taking home at least $68,000.
Remarkably, occupations with lower wages in construction have experience faster wage growth over the last two years. Median wages for construction laborers have increased by more than 13%, contributing to an 11% overall increase in the construction median wage. This growth is among the most substantial in all industries.
While the construction industry grapples with an aging workforce, it presents lucrative opportunities for young workers. Competitive salaries, particularly in skilled trades, make it an appealing career choice. However, the industry must focus on strategies to attract and retain the younger generation to ensure a sustainable future.