A new NAHB study presents the most comprehensive estimates of home building employment, including self-employed workers, by state and congressional district. NAHB Economics estimates that out of 8.9 million people working in construction in 2013, close to 3.5 million people worked in residential construction, accounting for 2.4 percent of the US employed civilian labor force.
These numbers reflect modest job gains that took place since 2011 when construction employment bottomed out. Nevertheless, the industry employment levels remain far below the peaks reached during the housing boom when more than 11 million worked in construction, and home building employed more than 5 million people.
The NAHB residential construction employment estimates include self-employed workers. Counting self-employed is particularly important in the home building industry since they traditionally make up a larger share of the labor force. According to the 2013 ACS, one out of four construction workers is self-employed, while an economy-wide average does not reach 10 percent of the employed labor force.
Not surprisingly, the most populous state—California—also has the most residential construction workers. Almost half a million California residents worked in home building in 2013, accounting for 2.9 percent of the state employed labor force.
Florida comes in second with 295 thousand residential construction workers. Florida has fewer residents than Texas and about as many as New York but employs more residential construction workers accounting for a relatively high 3.5 percent of the employed state labor. Even though this share is well above the national average, it is drastically lower than in 2005 when Florida registered the highest share among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 6.2 percent.
Among the states hardest hit by the housing downturn and slowest to restore home building jobs are Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico still showing job losses of 57.3, 51.5, and 49.7 percent, respectively. Despite these significant job losses, home building in Nevada and Arizona continues to employ a relatively high share of local workers – 2.9 and 2.5 percent of the employed civilian labor force.
Similarly to Florida, states with high prevalence of seasonal, vacation homes, top the state list with the highest share of residential construction workers in 2013. Idaho with almost 4 percent of the employed labor force working in home building takes the top spot on the list. Vermont (3.8 percent), Montana (3.3 percent), Maine (3.2 percent), Utah (3.2 percent), and New Hampshire (3.1 percent) are next on the list.
Congressional district estimates are particularly useful to highlight the importance of home building to voting constituency residing in the district. The NAHB estimates show that the average congressional district has close to 7,900 residents working in residential construction but that number is often significantly higher and actually exceeds 16,000 in Montana’s single Congressional district.
Idaho’s 1st (Rep. Raul Labrador – R) comes second with more than 15,000 employed in home building. Texas’s 29th District (Rep. Gene Green – D) that serves the eastern part of the Greater Houston area is a close third with just under 15,000 residential construction workers residing there. The top ten list also includes two districts in the state of Florida. The 9th district (Rep. Alan Grayson – D) that includes Eastern Orlando has 14,882 and the 18th (Rep. Patrick Murphy – D) in Southeastern Florida has 14,066 residential construction workers. Two districts from California also made the top ten list – the 29th district (Rep. Tony Cardenas – D) and 50th (Rep. Duncan D. Hunter – R) register 14,244 and 13,756 residents working in the home building industry. The remaining districts on the top ten list are Colorado’s 7th (Rep. Ed Perlmutter – D) and Utah’s 4th (Rep. Mia Love – R) each registering around 14,000 residential construction workers. New York’s 1st district (Rep. Lee Zeldin – R) concludes the top ten list with more than 13,000 home building workers residing there.
By design, Congressional districts are drawn to represent roughly the same number of people. So generally, large numbers of residential construction workers translate into high shares of RC workers in their district employed labor forces. The 29th District of Texas has the highest share of residential construction workers in its employed labor force, 4.8 percent. Florida’s 18th and 19th Districts are close behind with 4.7 and 4.5 percent.
The new NAHB home building employment estimates only include workers directly employed by the industry and do not count additional jobs created through the ripple effect when building material suppliers, furniture producers, landscaping and other dependent industries hire workers in response to shifting demand for their products and services triggered by residential construction. As a result, the estimates underestimate the overall impact of home building on local employment.