The Most Popular Construction Jobs in the U.S. [2021 Edition]

With red-hot demand for residential construction nationwide, many builders are struggling to find the professionals they need to keep up. One recent forecast from a national trade association estimated that an additional 430,000 construction professionals will be needed in the industry this year, plus an additional 375,000 in 2022. Many employers are reporting particular difficulty finding enough workers who can fill roles that require more specialized skills or knowledge.

All of this is good news for many experienced construction professionals or those who are considering entering the profession. Workers with the requisite experience or training can command higher wages or other benefits since their skills are in high demand. Those looking to make a career switch can currently find ample opportunity for entry-level jobs in construction that pay better than other roles with similar educational requirements.

Spending on construction gives a sense of how much potential there is in the industry. Construction spending fell to an annual rate of $758 billion in February 2011 during the aftermath of the Great Recession, but over the decade since, construction spending has grown by more than 95%, surpassing $1.5 trillion in June 2021. The demand for residential construction that has become apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to push these figures even higher, which will only increase the need for construction jobs.

Chart1_US construction spending has nearly doubled over the past decade

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While the current demand for construction labor has created an array of new opportunities for workers, the outlook for construction employment was already strong. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated a 4% increase in construction employment by 2029, suggesting plenty of job opportunities in a growing field. Most positions in the industry pay more than the national median wage, and some of the best jobs in the field can be obtained with just a high school diploma and training from an apprenticeship or trade school program.

But the construction industry has been plagued by lackluster employment figures since the last recession. After peaking at nearly 10 million jobs during the housing bubble, construction employment plummeted to less than 7 million during the Great Recession and had been trending upward for most of the last decade before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Shutdowns early in the pandemic briefly sent construction employment falling to around 6.5 million in April 2020, but employment in the industry has rebounded to around 8.3 million currently. Despite record construction spending, this employment figure remains around 15% lower than the 2007 peak of 9.7 million, which again suggests a great need for more workers in the field.

Chart2_Total construction employment still lags behind pre-pandemic levels

Given these trends, researchers at Construction Coverage set out to identify the most popular construction jobs and understand which roles in the industry are most common. The researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics and ranked 56 total construction occupations based on their total employment. In addition, researchers calculated the proportion of total construction employment accounted for by each occupation, its median annual wage, and the location with the highest concentration of workers.

Here are the most popular construction jobs in the U.S.

The 15 Most Popular Jobs in Construction

Structural iron and steel workers

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15. Structural Iron and Steel Workers

  • Total employment: 71,490
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 1.2%
  • Median annual wage: $54,830
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC

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Electrician

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14. Helpers–Electricians

  • Total employment: 73,920
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 1.3%
  • Median annual wage: $33,840
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Rocky Mount, NC
Ceiling tile installer

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13. Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers

  • Total employment: 99,700
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 1.7%
  • Median annual wage: $47,460
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: St. George, UT
Construction inspector

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12. Construction and Building Inspectors

  • Total employment: 113,770
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 1.9%
  • Median annual wage: $62,860
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
Sheet metal worker

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11. Sheet Metal Workers

  • Total employment: 128,220
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 2.2%
  • Median annual wage: $51,370
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: New Bern, NC
Roofer

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10. Roofers

  • Total employment: 128,680
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 2.2%
  • Median annual wage: $43,580
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
Highway maintenance worker

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9. Highway Maintenance Workers

  • Total employment: 149,890
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 2.6%
  • Median annual wage: $41,660
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Watertown-Fort Drum, NY
Cement finish

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8. Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers

  • Total employment: 195,580
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 3.3%
  • Median annual wage: $46,000
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: St. George, UT
Painter

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7. Painters, Construction and Maintenance

  • Total employment: 217,880
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 3.7%
  • Median annual wage: $42,130
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Bremerton-Silverdale, WA
Construction equipment operator

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6. Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators

  • Total employment: 402,870
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 6.9%
  • Median annual wage: $49,770
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Greeley, CO
Plumber

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5. Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

  • Total employment: 417,440
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 7.1%
  • Median annual wage: $56,330
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Bremerton-Silverdale, WA
Construction supervisor

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4. First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers

  • Total employment: 614,080
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 10.4%
  • Median annual wage: $67,840
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Midland, TX
Electrician

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3. Electricians

  • Total employment: 656,510
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 11.2%
  • Median annual wage: $56,900
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Lake Charles, LA

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Carpenter

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2. Carpenters

  • Total employment: 699,300
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 11.9%
  • Median annual wage: $49,520
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Coeur d’Alene, ID
Construction worker

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1. Construction Laborers

  • Total employment: 971,330
  • Share of all construction & extraction employment: 16.5%
  • Median annual wage: $37,890
  • Area with the highest concentration of workers: Farmington, NM

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. To determine the most popular construction jobs in the United States, researchers ranked 56 total construction occupations based on their total employment. In addition, researchers calculated the proportion of total construction employment accounted for by each occupation, its median annual wage, and the location with the highest concentration of workers.

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