California construction workers among highest paid in nation as employment growth surges

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Image from Nicholas Construction & Development Co. Inc

Construction workers in California are among the highest paid in the nation, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The numbers also indicate rapid growth several market areas within California, with Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario adding the most construction jobs during the past year (15,800 jobs, 17 percent), followed by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale (11,000 jobs, 8 percent), according to data compiled by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA).

Fixr.com, an online website that provides cost guides, comparisons and other information for people looking to do remodeling or repair projects, crunched the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers to create a state-by-state ranking of average hourly wages for workers in the industry, The Daily Breeze has reported.

California landed 10th on the list of the 10 Highest Wage States, with average hourly earnings of $21.26. Connecticut and Washington ranked just above California with slightly higher pay, and Hawaii and Illinois were tied for the top slot. Construction workers in both of those states earn an average of $27.01 an hour.

The national average wage for construction workers is $18.22 an hour, which equates to $37,897 a year. In California, construction workers earn a average of $44,221 a year.

The Daily Breeze quotes Mike Balsamo, CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California, as saying he isn’t surprised that California ranks near the top. Balsamo said wages can be considerably higher for someone with specific skills and more experience.

“It’s common sense that our wages would be on the higher side because our cost of living is higher than most other states in the country,” he said. “There’s also more demand for construction here. Our housing market is one of the strongest in the U.S. for new home construction. We have high demand and a limited supply, so labor is a real resource.”

Nick Angelopoulos, owner of Nicholas Construction & Development Co. Inc. in La Puente, said he’s paying 10 to 20 percent more for subcontractors than he did a few years ago.

“It ranges from $17 an hour for unskilled laborers up to $35 an hour for someone who’s very skilled at a certain trade,” he said. “But we’re dealing with a shortage. A lot of big companies can’t find enough skilled workers.”

Balsamo said more money is being funneled into construction projects these days.

“Over the last four years or so, as the economy has rebounded, we’ve seen a 20 percent increase in subcontractor pricing,” he said, referring to the total amount a subcontractor is paid before dispersing that money among its workers. “Overall, I’d say the industry is healthy. The initial part of the recovery after the recession was limited to coastal areas, but now we’ve seen improvements in areas like the Inland Empire, Central Valley and Sacramento.”

Nation-wide, the AGCA reports that construction employment increased in 274 out of 358 metro areas between August 2016 and August 2017, declined in 52 and stagnated in 32. Association officials noted that the construction job gains come even as 70 percent of responding firms reported having a hard time finding qualified craft workers to hire.

“While many firms’ efforts to increase pay, add benefits and expand the diversity of their workforce appear to be helping, it is still a challenge for many contractors to keep pace with demand,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “It is not yet entirely clear how reconstruction work in Texas and Florida following the two recent hurricanes will impact already tight construction labor markets.”

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