Aging Construction Labor an Opportunity for Trusses

Originally published by: NAHBJune 4, 2019

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NAHB analysis of the most recent 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) data reveals that the median age of construction workers is 42, a year older than a typical worker in the national labor force. Aging construction workers and the ongoing labor shortage are two major headwinds for home builders and the overall construction industry.

As home building sector continues its recovery, there are significant labor market challenges. Unfilled jobs in the construction sector reached a post-Recession high in March 2019. While the construction sector has been adding jobs, access to labor is now again a top business challenge in 2019.

The median age of construction workers varies across the states. The color coding in the map above tracks the median age of construction workers. States with the oldest median age of construction workers (45 years old) are Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire, followed by Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming, where the median age of construction workers is 44. Construction workers are younger on average in the central part of the nation. Half of all construction workers in Utah are under 38, while in Nebraska and Texas half are under 39.

The second data series mapped above is the difference between the median age of construction workers in each state and the median age of the overall workforce. These estimates are reported as the numbers printed on each state. A positive number indicates that on average, construction workers are older than a typical worker in the state labor force. Kentucky is the state where the median age of construction workers is 4 years higher than the overall median, followed by Illinois, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico (+3). Meanwhile, a negative number indicates construction workers are, in general, younger than the state labor force. In Delaware, the median age of construction workers is 2 years younger than the overall median.

The ACS data also allow analyzing median age by occupations. Construction occupations with younger workers include helpers, roofers, and fence erectors. Older workers are concentrated in managerial positions such as inspectors, construction supervisors and construction managers.