Construction employment to grow in next decade

The construction industry is the only goods-producing sector in which employment is projected to grow over the next decade, according to a study the U.S. Department of Labor released Feb. 11.

While construction jobs will pay approximately 23 percent more than private-sector jobs overall, employment in the goods-producing sector as a whole is expected to decrease from 16 percent to 14 percent of the economy’s total employment. The manufacturing industry is also to decline, but only by 1 percent, which is a much smaller decline than from the last decade, according to the report.

One reason why the construction industry should do better than other businesses in the goods sector is that while many manufacturers are moving to other countries to cut costs, construction cannot move abroad.

“Construction has provided a more stable employment environment in the past three years than most industries,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive of the Associated General Contractors. “You can’t export schools, roads, bridges, libraries, churches and other buildings. We need people to build them here.”

From 2002 to 2012, total employment is projected to increase by 21.3 million jobs, or 15 percent. That growth rate is similar to the 1992 to 2002 decade, when total employment grew by 20.7 million jobs, but at a faster rate of 17 percent. One of the major differences between the two decades, however, will be the work force. Because a large portion of the labor force, primarily the baby boomer generation, will be 48 to 66 years old by 2012, more workers will be retiring, resulting in job shortages.

Due to the construction industry’s rigorous nature, it is expected to experience a large labor shortage over the next 10 years.

“Construction is still an industry where you can climb the ladder of success as high as you want,” Sandherr said. “The opportunities for women, minorities, youth and others are endless.”

According to the labor projection report, the number of women in the labor force is expected to grow by 14.3 percent over the next decade, which is faster than the 10 percent growth for men.

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While the number of Hispanic and immigrant workers in the construction industry is growing, there are still relatively few women in the industry. Nationally, women hold about 897,000, of the 9.7 million construction-related jobs, mostly in clerical or administrative positions.