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Percentage of White Non-Hispanic Workers Growing While Percent of Women Has Stayed the Same, According to New York Building Congress Analysis

Strong construction industry labor market provides opportunities for New Yorkers from diverse backgrounds, and helps to build strong middle class-- while need continues for recruitment & mentorship opportunities for women and minorities


NEW YORK - The construction industry employs over a quarter of a million workers in New York City. The industry and its workers continue to reflect the diverse population of New York City, but more can be done to recruit diverse candidates, according to a New York Building Congress analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).

A total of 250,270 men and women were employed in a construction industry occupation throughout the five boroughs in 2016, a decrease of 1 percent from 2015.

“While we have made real strides towards a more inclusive and diverse workforce, we still have work to do recruiting and mentoring women and minorities for successful careers in design and construction,” said New York Building Congress President and CEO Carlo A. Scissura. “The building industry supports programs providing greater access to jobs and ensuing workers are getting the wages, benefits, and training they deserve, especially those who may be working on the fringes of the industry.”

Race, Gender, and Age

  • The survey showed the number of White Non-Hispanic workers outpaced Hispanic workers in 2016. This is a reversal of trends from 2015, but adhering to the larger trends since 2005. The percentage of women in the industry remained the same from previous years.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, when the Census Bureau started tracking this figure, workers who self-identify as White have represented a majority of the workforce. In 2016, workers who self-identify as White increased from 95,841 to 100,326 (40 percent of the workforce), compared to a decrease from 95,874 to 88,788 (36 percent of the workforce) who self-identified as Hispanic.
  • Non-White workers comprised 60 percent of the workforce in 2016, a decrease of 2.3 percent from the previous year. The number of workers who self-identify as Black increased from 35,354 to 35,941 (14 percent of the workforce), the number of workers who self-identify as Asian decreased from 25,075 to 23,188 (nine percent of the workforce) and the number of workers who self-identify as two or more races increased from 1,840 to 2,027 (under 1 percent of the workforce).
  • The share of women in the construction industry remained the same at 7.6 percent, accounting for a total of 19,119 workers.
  • The workforce got slightly older in 2016. Workers under 35 years of age decreased from 31 percent of the workforce in 2015 to 29 percent in 2016, while workers aged 35 to 54 increased from 51 percent of the workforce in 2015 to 54 percent in 2016.

Wages and Benefits

Construction continues to be one of the backbones of the middle class in New York and the surrounding environment, while more can be done to support undocumented and blue-collar workers:

  • Over half (56 percent) of all NYC construction workers reported earning less than $50,000 per year. Another 30 percent earned between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, while 14 percent earned more than $100,000 in 2016.
  • Household incomes are higher than reported individual earnings, suggesting multiple earners or additional sources of income.
  • Results show 25 percent of construction workers had an annual household income below $50,000, while 31 percent range between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. 45 percent had annual household incomes above $100,000 in 2016.
  • The number of workers who reported having health insurance increased slightly from 53 percent in 2015 to 55 percent in 2016. In total, 113,399 construction industry workers are without health insurance.
  • Almost all workers without health insurance are blue collar workers – of the 201,000 total blue-collar workers, 100,100 are without health insurance.

“This Building Congress survey reaffirms our own data showing that a strong construction industry labor market is providing opportunities for New Yorkers from diverse backgrounds,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the 100,000 member Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “The nationally recognized Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills has welcomed close to 2,000 New York City residents into apprenticeship programs, helping strengthen and diversify the city’s middle class.”


Residence and Place of Employment

Construction continues to be a good job opportunity for those living within the five boroughs:

  • Of the 250,270 men and women who reported working in the New York City construction industry in 2016, 76 percent hailed from one of the five boroughs, a similar figure as the previous year. Residents of Long Island and New Jersey each made up nine percent of the City’s construction workforce. Residents in the Mid-Hudson region accounted for six percent, and Connecticut residents for one percent.
  • Among New York City residents working in the industry, 39 percent lived in Queens, followed by Brooklyn at 32 percent, the Bronx at 14 percent, Staten Island at nine percent, and Manhattan at six percent.
  • The Building Congress also found that 43 percent of the New York City residents employed by the building industry worked in the very same borough in which they lived in 2016, an increase of five percent from 2015.

“The good news is that New York City's construction industry remains a significant source of good–paying jobs and benefits for local residents and recent immigrants of all educational backgrounds,” noted Scissura. “But we must do a better job of attracting, training, and retaining a diverse workforce. The first step is to increase our support for organizations that promote careers in design and construction through a range of educational and mentoring programs for men and women of all ages, ethnicities, and educational backgrounds."


Additional Findings

  • Physical construction and other blue-collar operations accounted for 81 percent of the industry workforce, with the remainder being employed in construction-related sales and service occupations (four percent) as well as white-collar jobs, such as architects, engineers, and management (15 percent).
  • Fifty-seven percent of all respondents said they speak a language other than English as the primary language in their homes. After English speakers, the most prevalent languages are Spanish (35 percent), Polish (four percent), and Chinese (three percent).
  • Approximately 83 percent of workers have a high school diploma, a four percent increase from the previous year. Sixty percent of the building industry workforce never attended college, and 46 percent of all workers ended their education after earning a high school diploma. College degrees were earned by 13 percent of all workers, with four percent of the workforce going on to obtain a postgraduate degree.
  • Sixty-three percent of those who identified their citizen status indicted they were not citizens, an increase of three percent from the previous year. Forty-one percent did not identify their citizenship status.
  • Blue collar workers comprise 82 percent of all NYC workers in construction that are not citizens or do not identify their citizenship status.


The ACS Survey is based on personal responses and incorporates both union and non-union labor as well as participation by “off the books” workers. In addition to physical construction labor and other construction-related blue-collar operations, the survey also counts construction-related sales and service occupations as well as white-collar jobs, such as architects, engineers, and management, as part of the overall construction workforce. Data from for this report is based off figures from 2016, the latest year in which census data is available.


About New York Building Congress Research Program

Drawing from a broad array of data sources and the expertise of leading economists, budgetary analysts, industry executives, and public policy professionals, the Building Congress consistently produces reliable, relevant reports that have made the organization a go-to resource for information on current and future market conditions as well as insights into emerging trends and challenges related to capital budgets and private development throughout the five boroughs.

Building Congress publications are distributed to members, government officials, the media, and other interested parties through email blasts and periodic direct member mailings. Select reports are posted on the Building Congress website.


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