As 2020 begins, NAHB’s Eye on Housing is reviewing the posts that attracted the most readers over the last year. In October, Natalia Siniavskaia used BLS data to track the highest paid occupations in the construction sector.
According to the 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey data and analysis by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), half of payroll workers in construction earn more than $47,290 and the top 25% make at least $66,290. In comparison, the U.S. median wage is $38,640, while the top quartile (top 25%) makes at least $62,510.
Year over year, median wages in construction outpaced the national median wages, 3.2% vs 2.5%. Wages of various construction laborers and helpers rose even faster, ranging from 6.7% for roofers’ helpers to 3.6% for construction laborers. Median wages of plasterers, stucco masons, floor layers, and tapers working in construction increased about 7%. Stonemasons saw their wages rise by over 6%. Their helpers and terrazzo workers got wage increases over 5%. Historically, subcontractor bids increase faster than construction wages, adding more inflationary fuel to housing prices. These findings are consistent with record high labor shortages reported by NAHB causing builders to pay higher wages and subcontractor bids and forcing them to increase home prices.
The OES publishes wages for close to 380 occupations in construction. Out of these, only 54 are construction trades. The other industry workers are in finance, sales, administration and other off-site activities.
The highest paid occupation in construction is Chief Executive Officers (CEO) with half of CEOs making over $166,710 per year. Airline pilots and flight engineers working in construction are next on the list with the median wages of $151,220 and the top 25 percent on the pay scale earning over $200,970 annually. Lawyers are third with the median wages of $142,080 and the top quartile making at least $196,770. The next eleven highest paid trades in construction are various managers. Half of architectural and engineering managers make over $127,770 and the top quartile earn over $159,640.
Among construction trades, elevator installers top the median wages list with half of them earning over $78,990 a year, and the top 25% making at least $100,720. The median wages for rotary drill operators is close to $70,000, with the top quartile of the pay scale earning over $77,610 annually. First-line supervisors of construction trades are next on the list, with half of them making over $64,600. Boilermakers are close fourth highest paid construction craft. Half of these craftsmen working in construction earn over $64,480, and the highest paid 25% bring in over $78,250.
In general, construction trades that require more years of formal education, specialized training or licensing tend to offer higher annual wages. The median wages of construction and building inspectors are $60,240 and the wages in the top quartile of the pay scale exceed $80,580. Half of electricians and plumbers in construction earn over $53,540, with the top quartile making over $71,300.
Carpenters are one of the most prevalent construction trades in the industry. The trade requires less formal education. Nevertheless, the median wages of carpenters exceed the national median. Half of carpenters working in construction earn over $46,810, and the highest paid 25% earn at least $61,810 annually.