Construction Wages Top the National Average

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Source: NAHBNow

According to the 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey data and analysis by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), half of payroll workers in construction earn more than $49,030 and the top 25% make at least $68,690. In comparison, the U.S. median wage is $39,810, while the top quartile (top 25%) makes at least $64,240.

Year over year, median wages in construction outpaced the national median wages once again, 3.7% vs 3%. Median wages of various construction trades rose even faster. Terrazzo workers and finishes registered a jump in median wages of over 20%. Median wages of stonemasons and tapers increased by over 7%. Roofers saw their wages rise by 5.6%. Median wages of insulation workers rose 5.4%, plasterers and stucco masons – 5%.


Wages of multiple entry-level construction trades showed rapid growth as well. Median wages of carpenters’ helpers increased by over 7%. The wage gains by brickmasons’ and roofers’ helpers averaged 6% and 5.6%, respectively.

Historically, subcontractor bids increase faster than construction wages, adding more inflationary fuel to housing prices. These findings are consistent with high labor shortages reported by NAHB causing builders to pay higher wages and subcontractor bids and forcing them to increase home prices.

The OES publishes wages for 364 occupations in construction. Out of these, only 55 are construction trades. The other industry workers are in finance, sales, administration and other off-site activities.

The highest paid occupation in construction is Chief Executive Officers (CEO) with half of CEOs making over $167,910 per year. Lawyers working in construction are next on the list with the median wages of $140,480 and the top 25 percent on the pay scale earning over $197,340 annually. Out of the next 16 highest paid trades in construction, 15 are various managers. The highest paid managers in construction are architectural and engineering managers, with half of them making over $134,860 and the top quartile earning at least $169,870.

Among construction trades, elevator installers top the median wages list with half of them earning over $84,230 a year, and the top 25% making at least $104,770. First-line supervisors of construction trades are next on the list, with half of them making over $65,790 and top quartile earning at least $84,890. Boilermakers are close third highest paid construction craft. Half of these craftsmen working in construction earn over $65,540, and the highest paid 25% bring in at least $78,250.

In general, construction trades that require more years of formal education, specialized training or licensing tend to offer higher annual wages. Median wages of construction and building inspectors are $62,580 and the wages in the top quartile of the pay scale exceed $84,010. Half of plumbers in construction earn over $54,880, with the top quartile making over $73,850. Electricians’ wages are similarly high.

Carpenters are one of the most prevalent construction trades in the industry. The trade requires less formal education. Nevertheless, the median wages of carpenters exceed the national median. Half of carpenters working in construction earn over $48,550, and the highest paid 25% earn at least $63,310 annually.