Construction: Economic Factors

construction worker, crane, architect

Input: Economic Factors

In 2011, the total value of construction put in place was approximately $778 billion. The largest segment was nonresidential construction with ($533 billion). Other large nonresidential construction segments include educational facilities ($84 billion), commercial buildings ($43 billion), highway and street ($78 billion) construction, and office ($9 billion) construction.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Annual Value of Construction Put in Place 2002-2011 pdf icon[PDF – 140 KB]external icon

Across the Sector

Several construction industry economic and industry organization factors serve to provide challenges that can impact safety and health conditions:

  • Employment is intermittent and transient based on the length of the construction project.
  • Many employers are small. In 2011, 85% of private sector construction businesses with paid workers had fewer than 10 workers. Source: Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages Program (QCEW)external icon.
  • Construction worksites are organizationally complex multi-employer sites and present numerous managerial challenges. General contractors usually organize the projects and use individual trade sub-contractors to perform specific tasks (e.g., plumbing, electrical work). In many cases, schedules overlap and certain tasks may be predicated on completion of a task by a different employer thus creating schedule pressures and sometimes extended overtime.
  • There is a high degree of competition—Construction work is performed under time and cost constraints imposed by a system of competitive bidding and a practice of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder.
  • The market for construction materials can be volatile, including prices and availability of those materials, thus introducing planning and scheduling challenges on construction sites.
Labor Force Issues

The industry has a high concentration of apprenticeship programs that provide an occupational safety and health training opportunity.

In 2011, approximately 22% of construction workers worked 41 hours or more according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Surveyexternal icon.

The short-term nature of construction projects, the cyclical nature of the industry, and slowdowns due to poor weather conditions can result in periods of unemployment.

The industry has a high concentration of immigrant and non-English speaking workers, which presents a variety of potential safety and health challenges such as training and communication. For example, a Pew Hispanic Center Research Report pdf icon[PDF – 142 KB]external icon estimates that while unauthorized (their term for undocumented) immigrant workers represented 4.9% of the total civilian labor force, they represented 14% of the construction workforce. Four of the five detailed occupations with the highest share of such workers are in construction.

1.Insulation workers 36%
3. Roofers 29%
4. Drywall installers, ceiling tile installers, and tapers 28%
5. Helpers, construction trades 27%

Other construction occupations with at least three times the national share include construction laborers (25%), brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons (25%), painters (construction and maintenance) (22%), and cement masons, concrete finishers, and terrazzo workers (21%) (Passel, J. 2006. The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S, Estimates are based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey from the Pew Hispanic Center pdf icon[PDF – 142 KB]external icon. March 7, 2006.

Estimates of the costs of fatal occupational injuries in construction

<strong>NIOSH Fatal Occupational Injury Cost Fact Sheet: Construction</strong>
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2006-153 (September 2006)
Includes the number, rate, and costs of fatal occupational injuries in the U.S. construction industry by selected characteristics, 1992–2002.

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Page last reviewed: October 23, 2018