Recent industrywide surveys have indicated that skilled labor wages continue to rise at a steady pace due to a significant labor shortage of qualified craft workers. In an effort to attract workers, a growing number of firms are not only increasing base-pay rates, but also offering incentives and bonuses to prospective employees. Some union trades including carpenters, cement masons and laborers even experienced wage increases greater than 3 percent.

Hurricanes Increase Demand for Construction

In addition to a national shortage of skilled labor, a number of powerful mainland storms this year have left several states with billions of dollars in damages. Thus, the demand for reconstruction projects in Southeast Texas, and those other states, is at an all-time high.

States Offering the Highest Wages

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, regarding states providing the highest wages, Hawaii and Illinois pay construction workers an average of $27.01 an hour. Also making the top 10 list were Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, Arkansas and California. Nick Angelopoulos, owner of Nicholas Construction & Development Co. Inc. in La Puente, California, said, “It ranges from $17 an hour for unskilled laborers up to $35 an hour for someone who’s very skilled at a certain trade. But we’re dealing with a shortage. A lot of big companies can’t find enough skilled workers.”

Official Jobs Report

Average hourly wages have grown by 2.9 percent over the past 12 months per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although some economists are blaming wage growth numbers on large job losses in various industries, and abnormal data caused by recent hurricanes, there are still a number of economists who are confident that wages will continue to rise in the subsequent months. “The tightening labor market…assures more wage gains in the near future,” said National Association of Realtors economist Lawrence Yun in a report.

Right-to-Work Laws Impact Wages

There are 28 states that have passed right-to-work laws that enables employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. Although employees who opt out of joining unions don’t have to pay the costly membership dues, collective agreements established under right-to-work laws can result in comparatively lower wage increases versus pro-union states. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more jobs have been created in states with right-to-work laws.


There are many different variables that impact skilled labor wages around the United States, including major storms, new laws being enacted, and a growing labor crisis. But, as long as the demand for new construction projects persists, it’s all but inevitable that skilled labor wages will continue to increase in the foreseeable future.

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The Birmingham Group is a tenured construction recruiting firm dedicated to helping you build your dream team. If you are ready to take a proactive approach to recruiting and retention, reach out today to discuss a custom recruitment strategy.