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The best-paying cities for construction workers
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The best-paying cities for construction workers

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Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

According to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, total construction spending in the United States amounted to $667.9 billion during the first six months of 2020. While this total represents a 5 percent increase over the same period in 2019, spending has decreased by about $86 billion since the onset of the pandemic in February.


Despite the overall decline, in some instances, construction activity has actually been able to ramp up as a result of quarantine measures throughout the country. For example, construction workers in San Francisco took advantage of a 35 percent decline in regular weekday traffic to replace an 800-foot-long bridge portion of Highway 101. This project, originally slated for July, began several months early and was completed in less than two full weeks.

Still, since February, the construction industry has lost 444,000 jobs. While much of the labor force has been strained amidst widespread lockdowns beginning in March, historical records show that recessions tend to be especially challenging for construction workers. During the Great Recession, total construction employment experienced a decline of about 20 percent over a span of just 19 months. Encouragingly, total construction employment numbers have experienced a slight uptick in the past three months, following increases in residential building permits and new home sales, two strong indicators of continued growth in construction employment.


Despite being highly reactive to broader economic trends, the construction industry generally compensates its workers well, especially when considering that few construction workers have a postsecondary degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, on a national level, full- and part-time wage and salary construction workers earn a median of $47,430 per year, which is about 19 percent more than the median wage of $39,810 for all occupations. For reference, all full-time workers in the U.S. with only a high school diploma earn about $38,800 annually, and those with less than a high school degree earn just under $31,000.

At the state level, the Midwest claims the highest median wages for construction workers. After adjusting for cost of living, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio all rank among the highest-paying states for construction workers. Alaska and Hawaii are also among the best-paying cities for construction workers. Illinois pays the most with a median adjusted wage of $71,111, compared to a low of just $38,151 in Florida. Southern states such as Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and the Carolinas all pay less than $45,000 per year.


To determine which metropolitan areas are the best-paying for construction workers, researchers at Construction Coverage, a review site for construction management software and commercial auto insurance, analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics survey. For each metro, researchers calculated the adjusted median wage for construction workers by factoring in the relative cost of living. The report also includes the unadjusted median wages of construction workers and all workers, as well as the total number of construction workers employed, and the cost of living.


To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with more than 100,000 residents were included in the analysis. Metros were grouped into the following cohorts based on population:

  • Large metro: more than 1,000,000 residents
  • Midsize metros: 350,000 – 999,999 residents
  • Small metros: 100,000 – 349,999 residents

Similar to the state-level analysis discussed above, Midwest metros such as Chicago and St. Louis pay the most to their construction workers, boasting median adjusted wages of $75,417 and $71,000, respectively. On the contrary, Texas and Florida metros represent the lowest-paying locations in the country even after adjusting for living costs.

Here are the best-paying metropolitan areas for construction workers in the United States.



The Best-Paying Large Metros for Construction Workers

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

15. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $53,844
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $48,460
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $39,620
  • Number of construction workers: 36,770 (3.4% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 10.0% below average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

14. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $54,070
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $56,990
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $43,840
  • Number of construction workers: 90,580 (3.1% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 5.4% above average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

13. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $54,462
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $51,630
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $39,470
  • Number of construction workers: 19,670 (3.6% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 5.2% below average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

12. Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $54,501
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $62,240
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $53,300
  • Number of construction workers: 98,350 (3.5% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 14.2% above average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

11. Kansas City, MO-KS

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $55,404
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $51,470
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $40,640
  • Number of construction workers: 43,480 (4.0% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 7.1% below average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $55,434
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $57,540
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $45,350
  • Number of construction workers: 58,190 (4.8% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 3.8% above average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $56,129
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $63,370
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $53,360
  • Number of construction workers: 96,690 (4.8% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 12.9% above average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Pittsburgh, PA

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $57,626
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $53,650
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $40,570
  • Number of construction workers: 54,230 (4.7% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 6.9% below average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $57,990
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $55,380
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $41,620
  • Number of construction workers: 62,500 (3.2% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 4.5% below average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $58,482
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $59,710
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $50,630
  • Number of construction workers: 16,200 (2.8% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 2.1% above average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $59,878
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $53,950
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $40,440
  • Number of construction workers: 31,150 (3.0% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 9.9% below average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $63,674
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $65,330
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $47,010
  • Number of construction workers: 65,890 (3.3% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 2.6% above average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $63,850
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $60,530
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $40,720
  • Number of construction workers: 29,270 (3.4% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 5.2% below average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. St. Louis, MO-IL

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $71,000
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $64,610
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $40,170
  • Number of construction workers: 54,090 (3.9% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 9.0% below average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

  • Median wage for construction workers (adjusted): $75,417
  • Median wage for construction workers (unadjusted): $77,830
  • Median wage for all workers (unadjusted): $42,500
  • Number of construction workers: 142,150 (3.0% of total employment)
  • Cost of living: 3.2% above average

Methodology

Total construction spending data was acquired from the Monthly Construction Spending, June 2020 report by the U.S. Census Bureau. Annual wage and employment statistics are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey and the Current Employment Statistics Highlights. The surveys were released in 2020 and include the most recent data as of this writing. The information in the OES is for all wage and salary construction workers. It does not include self-employed workers.

The adjusted median wage for construction workers for each location was calculated by dividing the location’s unadjusted median wage by its regional price parity. Regional price parity data is from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Regional price parities, or RPPs, show the differences in price levels of goods and services by region and are a good measure of each location’s cost of living.

Only metropolitan areas with employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that have at least 100,000 residents were included in the analysis. The final list is ordered by the adjusted median wages for construction workers.

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