Private sector construction employment in New York City rose 2.4 percent in 2012 while wages have remained virtually unchanged, according to a New York Building Congress analysis of New York State Department of Labor employment statistics.
New York City construction employment for all of 2012 averaged 114,875, up from an average of 112,192 jobs in 2011. The overall jobs numbers have remained in a very narrow range for three consecutive years (112,383 construction jobs recorded in 2010).
The modest upward trend in construction employment has continued in the initial months of 2013. According to the data analyzed by the Building Congress, construction employment reached 111,333 in the first quarter of 2013, up 1.3 percent from the same period a year ago and 5.4 percent from the first quarter of 2011. Construction industry employment generally is lowest in the first quarter of each year as companies reduce employees on payroll during the winter months.
Despite the recent upward trend in employment, average construction industry employment is still down 13 percent from 2008, during the height of New York City’s building boom.
The specialty trades sector, which includes plumbers and electricians, accounted for 74,250 jobs in 2012, which was a 2.1 percent increase from 2011. Workers involved in the construction of buildings accounted for 31,592 jobs (a 3.8 percent increase from 2011). The heavy construction and civil engineering sector produced 9,033 jobs, which was virtually identical to 2011.
“While employment remains well below the standard set in the latter portion of the last decade, the industry has nonetheless regained its footing and the current trends in the job market are generally positive,” said Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson. “It is also encouraging to note that the numbers have been stable in each of the employment categories, as it suggests that job opportunities are being created for workers in all sectors of the industry.”
Average wages earned by construction workers in the private sector remained flat through the nine months of 2012 (the latest period for which data are available). Construction workers in New York City earned an average of $51,060 in the first nine months of 2012, compared to $50,989 for the same period in 2011 and $49,224 during the first nine months of 2010.
Given that fourth quarter earnings are generally highest, due to year-end bonuses, it appears that annual earnings in 2012 will roughly equal the $71,081 reached in 2011. In 2010, earnings for the entire year averaged $69,622 per worker.
“While the relative stagnation in 2012 wages is largely indicative of the overall U.S. job market,” Mr. Anderson continued, “it also likely reflects the collective impact of the union contracts signed in 2011, recent project-labor agreements and the increasing use of lower-wage nonunion labor throughout the City.”