Construction, by nature, is a cyclical business, and the decade beginning with 2020 has clearly demonstrated that. Most construction companies started the decade with healthy backlogs and rosy outlooks, but the pandemic and ensuing supply-chain issues put a damper on hiring in many regions and construction sectors.
Outlook by Position
Even with downturns experienced in 2020, certain construction jobs remain in high demand. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the following jobs are expected to be in high demand throughout the decade:
10 In-Demand Construction Jobs
|Position||Median Salary||Additional Jobs 2020-2030||Education Needed|
|Construction Manager||$97,180||51,400||Bachelor’s Degree|
|Construction Laborer/Helper||$37,080||109,100||High School Diploma|
|Electrician||$56,900||66,100||High School Diploma|
|Equipment Operator||$49,100||24,900||High School Diploma|
|Glazier||$46,080||2,500||High School Diploma|
|Plumber/Pipefitter/Steamfitter||$56,330||23,400||High School Diploma|
|Sheet Metal Worker||$51,370||4,800||High School Diploma|
|Solar Photovoltaic Installer||$46,470||6,100||High School Diploma|
|Structural Iron and Steelworker||$53,210||5,400||High School Diploma|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2020
Here are brief summaries of the construction jobs in demand:
|Construction Managers plan, coordinate budget and supervise construction projects from start to finish. This position offers high salary opportunities, but carries high levels of responsibility. A college degree is typically required.|
|Construction Laborer/Helpers perform various tasks that require physical labor on construction sites. Work can be physically demanding. This is often the best way to gain entry-level experience in construction.|
|Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems. Most electricians learn through an apprenticeship, but some start out by attending a technical school. Most states require electricians to be licensed.|
|Equipment Operators drive, maneuver or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, buildings and other structures. Many workers learn how to operate construction equipment on the job after earning a high school diploma or equivalent; others learn through an apprenticeship or by attending vocational schools.|
|Glaziers install glass in windows, skylights and other fixtures in buildings. As in many other construction trades, the work of glaziers is physically demanding. They may experience cuts from tools and glass, falls from ladders and scaffolding and exposure to solvents.|
|Painters apply paint, stain and coatings to walls and ceilings, buildings, large machinery and equipment, and bridges and other structures. Painters work indoors and outdoors. Painting is physically demanding and requires bending, kneeling, reaching and climbing.|
|Plumber/Pipefitter/Steamfitters install and repair piping fixtures and systems. Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters work in factories, homes, businesses and other places where there are pipes and related systems.|
|Sheet Metal Workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets. Sheet metal workers often lift heavy materials and stand for long periods of time.|
|Solar Photovoltaic Installers assemble, set up and maintain rooftop or other systems that convert sunlight into energy. Most solar panel installations are done outdoors, but installers sometimes work in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electrical grid.|
|Structural Iron and Steelworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings, bridges, and roads. Ironworkers perform physically demanding and dangerous work, often at great heights. Workers must wear safety equipment to reduce the risk of falls or other injuries.|
Outlook by Segment
Another way to view construction employment is by market segment. According to an Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) report on construction hiring, only three of 16 construction market segments indicated a potential growth in demand for 2021: water and sewer, warehouse, and healthcare. Other key segments, such as transportation, schools, and manufacturing indicated decrease in demand. The outlook for the rest of the decade could change markedly in the U.S., particularly due to the recently passed infrastructure bill. Dodge Data & Analytics, which tracks construction trends, offers additional insight in its 2021 mid-year report. Key points include:
- Economic growth is expected to continue into 2022 as the country rebounds from the pandemic and businesses increase spending.
- Higher material prices and labor shortages may impede recovery for the construction sector.
- Single family construction will slow in 2021 after a robust 2020.
- Warehouses, data centers and renovations are bright spots, while the outlook for retail, hotels and traditional offices remains more uncertain.
- Environmental public works and electric power are expected to be strong areas in 2021.
So if you’re looking for a construction job or looking to hire workers, you’ll want to monitor trends in individual jobs, as well as market trends and geographic trends. Sometimes these and other factors combine to match workers with positions in demand.
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Andrew Roe is a civil engineer and technical writer based in Minneapolis, MN. He is president of AGR Associates, Inc., and writes regularly for Fieldwire and various industry publications on construction, engineering, and other technology topics.