Construction: Sector Description

construction worker, crane, architect

Input: Sector Description

Construction is a large, dynamic, and complex industry sector that plays an important role in the U.S. economy. Construction workers and employers build our roads, houses, and workplaces and repair and maintain our nation’s physical infrastructure. Construction work can involve building of new structures, which may include activities involved with subdividing land for sale as building sites or preparation of sites for new construction. Construction work also includes renovations involving additions, alterations, or maintenance and repair of buildings or engineering projects such as highways or utility systems.

In 2011, there were an estimated 9 million public and private sector construction industry workers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Surveyexternal icon.

Construction involves three major sub-sectors (NAICS 236, 237, and 238). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages Program (QCEW)external icon,in 2011, Construction of Buildings (NAICS 236) consisted of approximately 1.2 million workers in 225,167 public and private establishments that construct residential (NAICS code 2361) and nonresidential (NAICS code 2362) buildings.

Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction (NAICS 237), consisted of 996,301 workers and 57,610 public and private establishments performing Utility System Construction (NAICS 2371); Land Subdivision (NAICS 2372); Highway, Street, and Bridge Construction (NAICS 2373); and other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction (NAICS 2379).

Special Trade Contractors (NAICS 238), consisting of approximately 3.4 million workers and 486,674 public and private establishments, primarily engaged in activities to produce a specific component (e.g., masonry, painting, and electrical work) of a construction project. Activities of specialty trade contractors are usually subcontracted from other construction establishments or directly from the facility owner. This group is further divided into the following categories: Foundation, Structure, and Building Exterior Contractors (NAICS 2381); Building Equipment Contractors (NAICS 2382); Building Finishing Contractors (NAICS 2383); and Other Specialty Trade Contractors (NAICS 2389).

BLS QCEW data do not include unincorporated, self-employed workers. For more information regarding the QCEW employment and establishment numbers, please see the QCEWexternal icon website.

For more information regarding the Construction sector, please see the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Web siteexternal icon (Code 23).

The Industry at a Glance profileexternal icon from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides detailed information about employment, wages, productivity, and the occupational outlook for the Construction sector.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies 20 Construction Trade occupations:

  • Boilermakers
  • Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons
  • Carpenters
  • Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers
  • Cement masons, concrete finishers, segmental pavers, and terrazzo workers
  • Construction and building inspectors
  • Construction equipment operators
  • Construction laborers
  • Drywall installers, ceiling tile installers, and tapers
  • Electricians
  • Elevator installers and repairers
  • Glaziers
  • Hazardous materials removal workers
  • Insulation workers
  • Painters and paperhangers
  • Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
  • Plasterers and stucco masons
  • Roofers
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Structural and reinforcing iron and metal workers

Source: BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook – 2012-2013 Editionexternal icon

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Page last reviewed: October 23, 2018