All Things Political

Construction Industry Job Outlook

supplemental resource: Job Outlook by Profession

Population growth, deteriorating infrastructure, and aging buildings will generate employment growth in the construction industry. Job opportunities are expected to be good for those construction workers with the most experience and skill.

Employment change. The number of wage and salary jobs in the construction industry is expected to grow 19 percent through the year 2018, compared with the 11 percent projected for all industries combined. Employment in this industry depends primarily on the level of new construction as well as renovation activity on older buildings, which is expected to increase modestly over the coming decade.

Residential construction is expected to grow moderately over the decade to meet the needs of a growing population. Particularly, as the oldest children of the baby boomers reach their peak house-buying years in the coming decade, demand for housing by them is expected to grow to meet their needs. Demand by an expanding older population for senior housing and healthcare residences will lead to growth in these areas. The renovation and expansion of older homes should prove relatively constant over the projection period.

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Employment is expected to grow in the nonresidential construction sector over the decade as well. Replacement of many industrial plants has been delayed for years, and a large number of structures will have to be replaced or remodeled. There will also be a need for all types of medical treatment facilities to meet the demands of the growing elderly population. Construction of schools will continue to be needed, especially in the South and West, where the population is growing the fastest. However, the stress on many State and local governments’ budgets may be such that new construction for schools will be postponed for several years until the economy recovers.

Employment in heavy and civil engineering construction is projected to increase due to growth in new highway, bridge, and street construction, as well as in maintenance and repairs to prevent further deterioration of the Nation's existing highways and bridges. Voters and legislators in most States and localities continue to approve spending on road construction, which will create jobs over the next decade. Another area of expected growth is in power line and related construction. Even with increased conservation and more efficient appliances, there is an increasing demand for power. Increase demand for workers will likely result from new power plant construction and connecting these new facilities to the current power grids.

The largest number of new jobs is expected to be created in specialty trades contracting because it is the largest segment of the industry and because it is expected to grow about as fast as the rest of the construction industry. The number of jobs will grow as demand increases for subcontractors in new building and heavy construction, and as more workers are needed to repair and remodel existing homes, which specialty trade contractors are more likely to perform. Home improvement and repair construction is expected to continue even as new home construction slows. Remodeling should provide many new jobs because of a growing stock of old residential and nonresidential buildings. Many older, smaller homes will be remodeled to appeal to more affluent buyers interested in more space and amenities. Remodeling tends to be more labor-intensive than new construction. In addition, the construction industry, as well as all types of businesses and institutions, is increasingly contracting out the services of specialty trades workers instead of keeping these workers on their own payrolls.

Despite 19 percent overall employment growth of the construction industry, construction trades growth is expected to vary. For example, employment of rail-track laying and maintenance equipment operators; first line supervisors of construction trades; and pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is projected to grow faster than the industry average because their specialized services will be in greater demand. On the other hand, employment of structural iron and steel workers is expected to grow more slowly than the construction industry as a whole as workers become more productive. Nonetheless, nearly all construction trades are projected to experience some growth. Only helpers of roofers and of painters, paperhangers, plasterers and stucco masons are expected to experience a decline.

Employment of construction managers is expected to grow as a result of the increasing complexity of construction work that needs to be managed, including the need to deal with the proliferation of laws dealing with building construction, worker safety, and environmental issues.

Job prospects. Job opportunities are expected to be good, especially for experienced and skilled construction trades workers, because of the need to replace the large number of workers anticipated to leave these occupations over the next decade.

Experienced construction workers, and new entrants with a good work history or prior military service, should enjoy the best job prospects. A variety of factors can affect job prospects and competition for positions. Entering specialties requiring specific education, certification, or licensure are likely to improve job prospects for those willing to get the needed certifications, licenses, training, and education. Jobs that cause a worker to be at great heights, are physically demanding, or expose workers to extreme conditions are also more likely to have less competition for positions and often have high replacement needs. Occupations that have few training needs are likely to have increased competition and less favorable job prospects.

Certain occupations should have particularly good job opportunities. Because of the difficulty in obtaining certification as a crane operator, some employers have been unable to fill some positions. Electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are also licensed occupations that should have a favorable outlook due to projected job growth. Roofers should have favorable opportunities due to job growth and difficult working conditions, which lead to high replacement needs. Boilermakers; brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons; and structural and reinforcing iron and rebar workers should have excellent opportunities because of the skills required to perform their duties and the difficult working conditions. Installation and maintenance occupations—including line installers and heating and air-conditioning mechanics and installers—also should have especially favorable prospects because of a growing stock of homes that will require service to maintain interior systems. Construction managers who have a bachelor's degree in construction science, with an emphasis on construction management, and related work experience in construction management services firms, should have especially good prospects as well. Employment growth among administrative support occupations will continue to be limited by office automation. Construction laborers needing less training should face competition for work due to few barriers to entrance to this occupation. The outlook for carpenters will be heavily dependent upon residential construction activity, which is unlikely to grow as fast as in recent years. Painters should have good opportunities because of demand for their work, while paperhangers should have less favorable opportunities because of the reduced demand for their work.

The number of job openings in construction may fluctuate from year to year. New construction is usually cut back during periods when the economy is not expanding or interest rates are high.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition

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