The number of women employed in the construction industry grew substantially in 2019 rising to around 1.2 million, surpassing the peak of pre-recession employment level. As the construction skilled labor shortage remains a key challenge, adding new workers is an important goal of the industry. Bringing additional women into the construction labor force represents a potential opportunity for the future. Here we explore the state of women in the construction industry using labor force statistics from the Current Population Survey (CPS).
During the Great Recession, the number of female construction workers declined sharply by almost 30 percent to 807,000 by 2010. From 2010 to 2017, the total slowly expanded to around 970,000 but remained below the peak of pre-recession levels. The number of women working in construction increased to almost 1.2 million in 2019, up by 6% from 2018 after a 13% increase in 2017. This puts the 2019 total above the peak of pre-recession levels of 1.13 million.
Overall, the share of women in construction increased to 10.3% in 2019. According to the Current Population Survey, women in the construction are mostly involved in such occupations as office and administrative support, management, business and financial operations. Sales and office occupations employed the largest number of women within the construction industry. For example, women accounted for 74 percent of workers in sales and office occupations, including 446,000 women in office and administrative support, and 35,000 in sales and related occupations in 2019. More than 418,000 women were engaged in management, professional, and related occupations.
While construction and maintenance occupations account for the largest number of employees in construction, and is where additional workers are needed, women comprised only 3 percent of the such occupations. More improvement is needed here. Other groups such as production, transportation, and material moving occupations, and service occupations employed only around 9,000 female workers.