Construction Chart Book

Chart Book (6th edition): Industry Summary – Value Produced and Expended in Construction

by | Mar 13, 2018

4. Value Produced and Expended in Construction

An industry’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP, see Glossary) is measured by its value added.1 In 2015, the construction industry contributed $623.9 billion (4.1%) to the total GDP of the U.S. (chart 4a). While the number and percent of real value added dipped to a low point during the economic recession, it has climbed gradually since.

Value added prices (see Glossary) quantify changes in an industry’s cost and labor inputs, and reflect the productivity of capital and labor used by the industry. Compared with the overall private goods-producing industry (see Glossary) as measured by the value added price indices,2 construction fell faster at the outset of the Great Recession (which began earlier for construction compared to the overall economy) and has grown at a similar pace but from a lower level in the subsequent recovery (chart 4b).

Despite fluctuations in construction value through several business cycles, payroll and fringe benefits in construction have declined as a proportion of the value of construction work done (see Glossary). From 1977 to 2012, the proportion allocated to compensation dropped 16% from 30.5% to 25.5% of overall construction value (chart 4c). The percentage of receipts directed towards compensation in the Construction of Buildings sector (NAICS 236) shrank from 18.7% to 13.4%, a decrease of more than 28% during this period. The Construction of Buildings sector also represented the smallest share of compensation among the three major construction sectors.

In 2012, materials (including components and supplies) comprised the largest proportion of expenses for construction payroll establishments, accounting for 28% of the total value of construction business done (chart 4d). Subcontracting was the second largest category at 25% (totaling $340 billion) of the dollar value produced by such establishments.3 Expenses on payroll and fringe benefits made up 20% and 5%, respectively. In addition, of the service expenses for payroll establishments (about $92 billion), roughly $3.9 billion was used to pay temporary staff and leased employees. Overall, 11.4% ($156.2 billion) of the value of construction business done was not categorized and may include profits.

As some types of establishments subcontract a large share of their work, their output may appear disproportionately high compared with their number of direct employees. For instance, Nonresidential Building Construction (NAICS 2362), which had 10% of overall payroll employees in construction, produced $314 billion or 23% of the value of construction work from payroll establishments in 2012, while 49% of the work produced by this sector was done by subcontractors.4


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Construction work doneFrom the Economic Census: this measure may include new work, additions, alterations, or maintenance and repairs.

Goods-producing industryFrom the North American Industry Classification System: consists of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting (NAICS 11), Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction (NAICS 21), Construction (NAICS 23), and Manufacturing (NAICS 31-33).

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – From the Bureau of Economic Analysis: the market value of goods and services produced by labor and property in the United States, regardless of nationality.

Value added prices – From the Economic Census: this measure of construction activity is equal to the value of business done, less costs for construction work subcontracted out to others and costs for materials, components, supplies, and fuels


1. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Value Added by Industry. (Accessed April 2016).

2. In the chain-type price indices for value added reported by the BEA, 2009 is used as a base year in the 2002–2015 data.

3. The U.S. Census Bureau does not detail the components of the subcontracting category.

4. U.S. Census Bureau. 2012 Economic Census, Construction Subject Series. (Accessed April 2016).



Chart 4a – Real dollar value means that dollars are adjusted for inflation.

Charts 4a, 4c, and 4d – Data cover the private sector only.

Chart 4d – “Other” includes profits and uncategorized items.


Chart 4a – U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Real Value Added by Industry. (Accessed November 2016).                                     

Chart 4b – U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Chain-Type Quantity Indices for Value Added by Industry. (Accessed November 2016).     

Chart 4c – U.S. Census Bureau. 2012 and previous years Economic Census, Construction Subject Series. (Accessed April 2016).

Chart 4d – U.S. Census Bureau. 2012 Economic Census, Construction Subject Series. (EC1223SG03) (Accessed April 2016).