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Survey: Construction industry mostly white and male. Women, minority numbers drop

The vast majority of New York City’s 238,800 construction industry workers in 2014 were male and lived in one of the five boroughs; and more than half currently benefitted from health insurance coverage, according to a New York Building Congress analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).

According to the survey, which is based on personal responses and incorporates both union and non-union labor as well as participation by “off the books” workers, 238,800 residents of the tri-state region reported working in a construction-related occupation in New York City in 2014, the latest year in which census data are available.

Physical construction and other blue-collar operations accounted for 80 percent of the industry workforce with the remainder being employed in construction-related sales and service occupations as well as white-collar jobs, such as architects, engineers, and management.

Workers who self-identify as White made up 41 percent of the workforce in 2014, followed by Hispanics at 38 percent. The share of Blacks in the construction workforce fell from 13 percent to 12 percent between 2013 and 2014. Asian participation similarly declined – from 10 percent to 9 percent during the period.

The share of women in the construction industry fell from 9 percent of the total workforce in 2013 to 7 percent in 2014.

An in-depth look at the data revealed that the number of women in the construction workforce who never attended college dropped by more than 50 percent – from 9,220 in 2013 to 4,588 in 2014, while the number of women with at least at some college education increased by 359 – from 11,649 to 12,008; and women age 50-59 outnumbered women age 20-29 by 3,847 to 3,437.

Nearly 56 percent of all respondents said they speak a language other than English as the primary language in their homes. After English speakers, the most prevalent languages are Spanish (35 percent), Polish (4 percent), and Chinese (3 percent).

Approximately 62 percent of the building industry workforce never attended college, and 45 percent of all workers ended their education after earning a high school diploma. A little over 16 percent of all workers earned collegiate degrees, with 3 percent of the workforce going on to obtain a post-graduate degree.

Approximately 42 percent of all building industry workers lived in households with incomes greater than $100,000 in 2014 (up from 39 percent in 2013). Approximately 31 percent of workers reported household earnings between $50,000 and $100,000; 19 percent reported earnings between $25,000 and $49,999; and 9 percent reported household earnings of less than $25,000 annually.

The number of workers who reported having health insurance increased from just under 50 percent in 2013 to 56 percent in 2014. The rise is primarily attributable to gains among blue-collar workers – 52 percent reported having health insurance in 2014, up from 44 percent in 2013.

“The good news is that New York City’s construction industry remains a significant source of good–paying jobs and benefits for local residents and recent immigrants of all educational backgrounds,” said New York Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson.

“What is concerning, however, is that we are not seeing greater levels of participation among women, especially young women, as well as non-Hispanic minority groups. We must do a better job of attracting, training, and retaining a diverse workforce. The first step is to increase our support of those organizations that promote careers in design and construction through a range of educational and mentoring programs for men and women of all ages, ethnicities, and educational backgrounds.”

Of the 238,800 men and women who reported working in the New York City building industry in 2014, three-quarters hailed from one of the five boroughs. Residents of Long Island and New Jersey each provided roughly one-tenth of the City’s construction workforce.

Among New York City residents working in the industry, 36 percent lived in Queens, followed by Brooklyn at 31 percent, the Bronx at 16 percent, Manhattan at 9 percent, and Staten Island at 8 percent.

Taking a deeper dive into the census data, the Building Congress found that 41 percent of the New York City residents employed by the building industry worked in the very same borough in which they lived in 2014.

Approximately 81 percent of Staten Island’s jobs were held by residents of the borough, while 62 percent of Brooklyn’s jobs were held by Brooklynites, 57 percent of Queens jobs were held by Queens residents, and 56 percent of Bronx jobs were held by residents of that borough. Manhattan was the only borough that “imported” the majority of its workforce – just 14 percent of Manhattan construction workers also lived in the borough.

Anderson added, “One of the best aspects of working in New York City’s construction industry is that it is a source of tremendous pride to be able to help build the homes, schools, parks, roads, and other community facilities that, for the 75 percent of the workforce living in the City, are so vital to your family and your neighbors’ quality of life.”

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