Age of the Construction Labor Force

A scarcity of workers has been a notable headwind for home building and other parts of the construction industry in recent years. And a look at Census data reveals that the average age of workers in the construction industry exceeds the average age of the overall labor force.

As home building has recovered, there has been a significant labor market developments. Unfilled jobs for the construction sector have been on a generally rising trend. And while the residential construction sector has been adding net jobs, more than a half million since the low point of employment after the Great Recession, builders cite access to workers as a top business challenge.

Data from the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) reveal that the median age of a worker in the overall construction sector is 42. This estimate is for both the residential and nonresidential construction industries. A median of 42 compares to a slightly younger median age of 41 for the overall workforce of the United States.


Moreover, the ACS data presents regional patterns. The map above plots data items. The color coding tracks the median age of those working in construction. Median ages tend to be somewhat higher in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest. For example, the median age of construction workers is 45 in the state of Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut. Lower median ages are found in states in the central part of the nation, with the youngest medians found in Utah (36) and North Dakota (38).

The second data series mapped above is the difference between the median age of the construction labor force in each state and the median age of the overall workforce. These estimate are reported as the numbers mapped on each state. A positive number indicates that the median age for the construction sector is older than the median for the state with respect to all industries.

The states for which the median for construction is two years higher than the overall median include Pennsylvania, New York, Missouri, Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois, Hawaii, Florida and Connecticut.  North and South Dakota are the two states for which the median for construction is two years younger than the overall median age of workers in the state.

The ACS data also permit an examination of median age by occupations. These occupations include workers in and outside the construction industry itself (for example, construction workers in the energy sector).

The medians are presented by occupations below. Construction occupations with younger median ages include construction trade helpers, roofers, and laborers. Older occupations include managerial positions such as construction supervisors and construction managers, as well as equipment operators.

Given ongoing labor access issues in the industry, attracting the next generation of construction workers will be a challenge the sector will face in the coming years.



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