Construction Employment Outlook

Job instability but high wage potential

For the most part economic downturns or industry slowdowns can affect job availability in construction. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this can mean reduced wages and layoffs during recessions. On the other hand, when building activity is steady you can expect opportunities for lots of overtime hours.

About one-third of carpenters in the U.S. are self employed. Those with a broader knowledge base may be better able to go it alone.

  • Median hourly earnings - $16.78
  • Middle 50 percent - $12.91 to $22.62
  • Top 10 percent - over $28.65
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $10.36

Median wages by employment area

  • Nonresidential building construction - $18.70
  • Building finishing contractors - $17.51
  • Residential building construction - $16.48
  • Foundation, structure and building exterior contractors - $16.40
  • Employment services - $13.94

Drywall installer wages

Drywallers and tapers may be paid hourly or according to the amount of work they complete each day. Jobs here are expected to grow slowly but openings will arise due to workers leaving for softer jobs.

  • Median hourly earnings - $16.36
  • Middle 50 percent - $12.59 to $21.82
  • Top 10 percent - over $28.30
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $9.98

Drywall taper wages

  • Median hourly earnings - $18.78
  • Middle 50 percent - $14.07 to $24.43
  • Top 10 percent - over $28.79
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $10.66

Flooring installer wages

Almost half of all flooring installers are self-employed. Job growth is expected to be average thanks to the renovation of older buildings, with tile setters having the best job opportunities (but limited openings). The most jobs will be in carpet installation, which also has the highest turnover. Floor sanding and finishing will see slow growth due to prefinished and durable wood flooring options. These construction workers should be more protected than others from new construction slowdowns.

  • Tile and marble setters - $44,000
  • Carpet installers -$41,000
  • Floor layers (not carpet, wood or hard tiles) - $16,000
  • Floor sanders and finishers - $7,000

Stonemason wages

  • Median hourly earnings - $16.82
  • Middle 50 percent - $12.74 to $21.45
  • Top 10 percent - over $27.23
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $9.97

Brickmason and blockmason wages

Poor weather can affect the hours put in for these jobs and layoffs in slow periods are possible. Job opportunities should be above average due to retiring workers and lack of replacements.

  • Median hourly earnings - $20.07
  • Middle 50 percent - $15.34 to $25.20
  • Top 10 percent - over $30.43
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $11.68

Cement masons and finishers wages

These workers are not often self-employed but job openings will be average. There is comparatively high turnover because of the working conditions and physical exertion required. Retirements in the next decade are also expected.

  • Median hourly earnings - $15.10
  • Middle 50 percent - $11.76 to $20.11
  • Top 10 percent - over $25.89
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $9.53

Roofer wages

Because this job relies on good weather, hours are variable and can involve less than 40 hours some weeks and well over that on others. There will be average growth due to workers leaving a job that's known as one of the hottest and hardest in construction. It's often considered a summer job or starting point for workers. Roofing isn't as affected by the economy as other construction jobs can be since roofs become damaged quickly and eventually must be replaced. Newer, more durable roofing materials may have an effect on job availability over the next thirty years. Roofing can be a good initiation into a better construction career.

  • Median hourly earnings - $14.83
  • Middle 50 percent - $11.54 to 19.80
  • Top 10 percent - over $25.59
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $9.41

Statistics courtesy the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004