Alaskan construction workers paid highest in nation

Construction workers in Alaska may have to tough out the frigid weather this time of year, but according to recently released labor statistics, their income makes up for the harsh temperatures. Alaskan construction workers get paid more than those in any other state, with an average annual income of $50,729 in 2002.

The average hourly wage in construction in that state was $28.72, which is $2 more than it was in 2001. The construction field in Alaska ranks second highest in earnings, with oil and gas professionals such as engineers, geologists and drillers ranking the highest.

The reason for the high wages, according to the Department of Labor, is because there is usually a lot of overtime pay and because of the seasonal nature of the job. Contractors have to pay workers enough to last them through the winter, when construction drops to a lull. The industry in Alaska employs about 19,500 people in the summer months, but that number drops to approximately 12,500 in winter. Some workers collect unemployment benefits during the cold weather, and some travel to warmer states to work during the winter months.

How do other states fare in construction wages? The national average income for all construction jobs is approximately $35,890 a year, according to 2000 statistics by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But don’t expect that much if you live in the warmer regions of the country. While construction workers in the Northwest, Midwest and West have the highest hourly wage — between $15.36 and $15.54 — workers in the South make an average of $12.03. Union members generally receive higher pay, making an average of $19.04 an hour in most of the country, and $15.81 in the South.

According to statistics from the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, foremen, electricians and bricklayers are among the highest paid in the construction industry, with an average of $20 to $23 an hour. Truck drivers and cleaning, maintenance and miscellaneous helpers make the least in the industry, with an average of $11 an hour.

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To read more statistics on construction wages, click on the link to the right.