Construction laborers
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Overview
Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for construction laborers are expected to grow by 12%, and should have about 153,300 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Construction laborers are more likely to be automated than 72% of other careers.
Workforce size
Construction laborers, with 1,216,700 workers, form a larger workforce than 97% of careers.
Education
Only 5% of construction laborers have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by construction laborers
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer construction laborers have bachelor's degrees than 83% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for 74% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for construction laborers. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most construction laborers.
This job's median $36KAll jobs' median $39K$33K$38K20142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 3% of construction laborers -- that's a smaller percentage than 90% of other jobs.
Gender of construction laborers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For construction laborers, the median men's salary was 13% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 13% of construction laborers are minority, and 39% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of construction laborers
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (39%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Construction Laborers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 19% of construction laborers, and 30% have company-sponsored health insurance (13% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for construction laborers
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of construction laborers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment (74%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (68%)
  • Time Pressure (63%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (44%)
  • Exposed to High Places (41%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (37%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (37%)
  • Exposed to Whole Body Vibration (35%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (34%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do construction laborers earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for construction laborers, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for construction laborers compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for construction laborers (BLS Salary Data)
$36K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$36K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all construction laborers, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for construction laborers compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for construction laborers (ACS Salary Data)
$30K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$30K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where construction laborers work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Construction laborers (ACS)
Private for-profit (75.8%)
Private not-for-profit (1.5%)
Local government (2.4%)
State government (0.7%)
Federal government (0.3%)
Self-employed incorporated (4.8%)
Self-employed not incorporated (14.4%)
Working without pay (0.2%)
Distribution: Salaries of construction laborers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$30K$30K$26K$40K$30K$40K$39K$40K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of construction laborers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$36K$38K$36K$35K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for construction laborers

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$27K$31K$35K$36K$32K$23K$37K$30K$36K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
050K100K150K200K250KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Construction laborers and gender

With 3% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 90% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
3%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Construction laborers
Men (97%)
Women (3%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for construction laborers, with the median salary for men 13% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$27K$31K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Construction laborers have one of the middle percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job higher than that for 35% of other jobs.

13%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of construction laborers

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a smaller percentage of minority construction laborers than for 79% of other careers. Although this career does not include a large percentage of minorities, it does hire more foreign-born people that most other careers.

Race/origin of construction laborers
White (72% )
Other (15% )
Black (7% )
Hispanic (2% )
Multiracial (2% )
Asian (2% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
13%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
39%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for construction laborers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$26K$26K$28K$29K$29K$31K$31K$36K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KAmerican IndianOtherMultiracialHispanicBlackAsianWhitePacific Islander
Distribution: Salaries for construction laborers by nativity
$27K$32K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by construction laborers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction laborers typically hold no formal educational credential.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as construction laborers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for construction laborers.

Education attained by construction laborers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for construction laborers

Although formal education is not typically required for most positions, helpers of electricians and helpers of pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters typically need a high school diploma. High school classes in mathematics, blueprint reading, welding, and other vocational subjects can be helpful.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for construction laborers

Laborers who remove hazardous materials (hazmat) must meet the federal and state requirements for hazardous materials removal workers.

Depending on the work they do, laborers may need specific certifications, which may be attained through LIUNA. Rigging and scaffold building are commonly attained certifications. Certification can help workers prove that they have the knowledge to perform more complex tasks.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for construction laborers? Below we see the distribution of construction laborers salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as construction laborers, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$26K$31K$33K$37K$39K$43K$40K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KNone (31%)High School (42%)Some College (17%)Associate's Degree (4%)Bachelor's Degree (4%)Master's Degree (0%)Doctorate (0%)
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for construction laborers

What jobs will most construction laborers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of construction laborers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Construction laborersCarpentersGrounds maintenance workersConstruction managersFirst-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workersPainters and paperhangersManagers (specialized areas)Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material moversJanitors and building cleanersDriver/sales workers and truck driversPipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfittersBrickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasonsDrywall and ceiling tile installers
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for construction laborers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 12 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as construction laborers as well as 1% of respondents after working as construction laborers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for construction laborers
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
389,900
$0$200K$28K
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
376,900
$0$200K$41K
Janitors and building cleaners
350,300
$0$200K$27K
Grounds maintenance workers
191,100
$0$200K$23K
Carpenters
113,800
$0$200K$34K
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
70,600
$0$200K$56K
Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
68,500
$0$200K$44K
Painters and paperhangers
39,300
$0$200K$29K
Construction managers
34,800
$0$200K$66K
Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons
14,300
$0$200K$32K
Drywall and ceiling tile installers
13,400
$0$200K$29K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for construction laborers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as construction laborers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of construction laborers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for construction laborers
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
389,900
$0$200K$28K
1.6%
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
376,900
$0$200K$41K
2.1%
Janitors and building cleaners
350,300
$0$200K$27K
1.7%
Grounds maintenance workers
191,100
$0$200K$23K
1.9%
Construction laborers
153,300
$0$200K$30K
30.5%
Carpenters
113,800
$0$200K$34K
8.7%
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
1.9%
Electricians
83,100
$0$200K$49K
1.0%
First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
70,600
$0$200K$56K
2.3%
Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
68,500
$0$200K$44K
1.6%
Construction equipment operators
48,300
$0$200K$46K
1.2%
Painters and paperhangers
39,300
$0$200K$29K
2.1%
Construction managers
34,800
$0$200K$66K
3.1%
Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons
14,300
$0$200K$32K
1.3%
Drywall and ceiling tile installers
13,400
$0$200K$29K
1.0%
No occupation
13.6%
Read about construction laborers
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Construction laborers and helpers typically do the following:

  • Clean and prepare construction sites by removing debris and possible hazards
  • Load or unload building materials to be used in construction
  • Build or take apart bracing, scaffolding, and temporary structures
  • Dig trenches, backfill holes, or compact earth to prepare for construction
  • Operate or tend equipment and machines used in construction
  • Follow construction plans and instructions from supervisors or more experienced workers
  • Assist craftworkers with their duties

Construction laborers and helpers work on almost all construction sites, performing a wide range of tasks varying in complexity from very easy to extremely difficult and hazardous.

Construction laborers, also referred to as construction craft laborers, perform a wide variety of construction-related activities during all phases of construction. Many laborers spend their time preparing and cleaning up construction sites, using tools such as shovels and brooms. Other workers, such as those on road crews, may specialize and learn to control traffic patterns and operate pavement breakers, jackhammers, earth tampers, or surveying equipment.

With special training, laborers may help transport and use explosives or run hydraulic boring machines to dig out tunnels. They may learn to use lasers to place pipes and to use computers to control robotic pipe cutters. They may become certified to remove asbestos, lead, or chemicals.

Helpers assist construction craftworkers, such as electricians and carpenters, with a variety of tasks. They may carry tools and materials or help set up equipment. For example, many helpers work with cement masons to move and set the forms that determine the shape of poured concrete. Many other helpers assist with taking apart equipment, cleaning up sites, and disposing of waste, as well as helping with any other needs of craftworkers.

Many construction trades have helpers who assist craftworkers. The following trades have associated helpers:

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of construction laborers? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Color vision
Construction laborers and helpers may need to be able to distinguish colors to do their job. For example, an electrician’s helper must be able to distinguish different colors of wire to help the lead electrician.
Math skills
Construction laborers and some helpers need to perform basic math calculations while measuring on jobsites or assisting a surveying crew.
Mechanical skills
Construction laborers are frequently required to operate and maintain equipment, such as jackhammers.
Physical stamina
Construction laborers and helpers must have the endurance to perform strenuous tasks throughout the day. Highway laborers, for example, spend hours on their feet—often in hot temperatures—with few breaks.
Physical strength
Construction laborers and helpers must often lift heavy materials or equipment. For example, cement mason helpers must move cinder blocks, which typically weigh more than 40 pounds each.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for construction laborers
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 74% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for construction laborers. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $36KAll jobs' median $39K$33K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for construction laborers are anticipated to grow by 12% over the next decade; only 19% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for construction laborers is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

20002010202020300500,0001,000,0001,500,0002,000,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most construction laborers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as construction laborers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Construction Laborers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.05.010.015.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where construction laborers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for construction laborers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for construction laborers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Construction Laborers to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which construction laborers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.5
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Construction laborers (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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