Chart Book (6th edition): Labor Force Characteristics – Age of Construction Workers by Union Status, Hispanic Ethnicity, Type of Employment, and Occupation
Construction workers in production (blue-collar, see Glossary) occupations are generally younger than those in managerial and professional occupations.1 The average age of construction production workers in 2015 was 41.2 years, compared to 45.8 years for managerial and administrative employees.2
On average, union members in construction are older than nonunion workers. Among production workers in 2015, the average age of union members was 42.3 years, compared to 39.2 years for nonunion workers. The difference in the median (see Glossary) age for the two groups was even greater (42 years versus 38 years). Only 16.6% of union members who performed production work were younger than 30 years old, compared with 25.4% of nonunion workers (chart 14a). About 56.7% of union members in production occupations were 40 years or older, while 45.9% of nonunion workers were in this age group.
Hispanic construction workers tend to be younger than their non-Hispanic counterparts. In 2015, the median age for Hispanic workers was 38 years, compared to 44 years for non-Hispanic workers. Almost one-quarter (23%) of Hispanic workers were less than 30 years old in 2015, compared to 17% of non-Hispanic workers in this age group (chart 14b). However, Hispanic workers have been getting older on average. When comparing 2010 data with 2015 data, the largest age group within Hispanic construction workers shifted from 30 to 34 years up to 35 to 39 years. This indicates that fewer young people (particularly young Hispanics) entered the construction industry in recent years, even as the industry began to recover after the economic downturn (see pages 13, 16, and 20).
Age distributions in construction also vary by employment type. Wage-and-salary workers were on average seven years younger than self-employed workers, with average ages of 41 years and 48 years, respectively. Over one quarter (27.3%) of wage-and-salary workers were at least 50 years old, whereas close to half (46.5%) of self-employed workers were in the same age range (chart 14c). Among wage-and-salary workers, those who worked in private companies were younger, with an average age of 40 years, compared to 46 years for government employees.
In 2015, about one in five construction workers were 55 years or older (20.5%; chart 14d). The proportion of construction workers in that age group primarily reflects differences in the physical demands of construction jobs. Nearly one-third of managerial workers were aged 55 or older. Among production occupations, operating engineers had the largest proportion (26.0%) of workers aged 55 and older, followed by foremen (24.6%), truck drivers (24.4%), and ironworkers (23.0%). Except for a handful of occupations (e.g., drywall installers, roofers), most construction jobs are likely to be impacted by the aging workforce in the near future. The bump in baby boomers will result in increased retirements, and skilled workers will be in high demand to replace them. It is expected that the need for occupational training and safety and health training for new workers will increase in construction in the next decade (see pages 30 and 31).
On the other hand, baby boomers (see page 13) expect to work longer than their predecessors.3 Given the high physical demands of construction jobs, ergonomic and other specific interventions to reduce physical stressors among workers are necessary.4,5 Accumulated knowledge, experiences, and other advancements of older workers can benefit employers and businesses.6,7 Moreover, opportunities for learning and re-training, flexibility in scheduling, and the option to transition gradually to retirement through part-time or bridge work should also be available for older workers.3,8
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Median – the numerical value separating the higher half of a sample from the lower half. If there is an even number of observations, then there is no single middle value; the median is then usually defined to be the average of the two middle values.
Production workers – In this chart book, same as blue-collar workers. From the Current Population Survey: all workers, except managerial, professional (architects, accountants, lawyers, etc.), and administrative support staff. Production workers can be either wage-and-salary or self-employed workers.
1. Production workers are all workers, except managerial and administrative support staff, and include the self-employed.
2. All numbers cited in the text are from the 2015 Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
3. Dong XS, Wang X, Ringen K, Sokas R. 2016. Baby boomers in the United States: Factors associated with working longer and delaying retirement. American Journal of Industrial Medicine (in press).
4. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 2016. Productive aging and work. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/productiveaging/ncpaw.html (Accessed November 2016).
5. Rempel D, Barr A. 2015. A universal rig for supporting large hammer drills: Reduced injury risk and improved productivity. Safety Science 78: 20-24.
6. LaPonsie M. 2015. 5 reasons employers should hire more workers over age 50. http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2015/09/18/5-reasons-employers-should-hire-more-workers-over-age-50 (Accessed January 2017).
7. Stanimira KT, Arnold J, Nicolson R. 2016. The experience of being an older worker in an organization: A qualitative analysis. Work, Aging and Retirement 2(4): 396-414.
8. McFall BH, Sonnega A, Willis RJ, Hudomiet P. 2015. Occupations and work characteristics: Effects on retirement expectations and timing. University of Michigan Retirement Research Center, Working Paper 2015-331. http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/papers/pdf/wp331.pdf (Accessed November 2016).
All charts – Includes self-employed workers.
Chart 14a – Production workers are all workers, except managerial and administrative support staff, and include the self-employed.
Chart 14d – The asterisk (*) denotes the exclusion of construction managers (see page 11).
Charts 14a, 14c, and 14d – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015 Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.
Chart 14b – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2010 and 2015 Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.