In 2005, there were 11.5 million workers in the construction industry and the unemployment rate hovered around 8.2%. That number dropped to 10.6 million in 2010 and unemployment jumped to 18%. While employment has improved since the recession, the workforce has not rebounded to pre-recession levels.
In 2015, the unemployment rate was 7.1%, but the construction workforce contracted further to 10.4 million, according to a report from BuildZoom.
BuildZoom Chief Economist Issi Romem said part of the problem is young workers do not find physical labor and construction work attractive. A recent survey of 18- to 25-year-olds from the National Association of Home Builders revealed only 3% of young people were interested in pursuing construction as a career while most surveyed wanted a less physically demanding job and perceived construction as difficult.
More millennials also are going to college and pursuing careers in corporate America rather than blue-collar jobs. About 27% of millennial women and 21% of millennial men have completed a bachelor’s degree. Comparatively, 17% of baby boomer men and 14% of baby boomer women hold a bachelor’s degree, according to Pew Research.
Construction wages also are low and have not increased significantly within the last 15 years. In 2000, the average salary for a construction worker was $49K per year. It decreased to $47K per year in 2005 and increased to $48K per year in 2015, still shy of the 2000 levels, according to BuildZoom.