This article was originally published on June 21, 2024 in APG Wisconsin.

With red-hot demand for construction nationwide, many builders are struggling to find the professionals they need to keep up. One recent forecast from a national trade association estimated that an additional 501,000 construction professionals will be needed in the industry this year, plus an additional 454,000 in 2025 on top of normal hiring. Many employers are reporting particular difficulty finding enough workers who can fill roles that require more specialized skills or knowledge.

 

All of this is good news for many experienced construction professionals or those who are considering entering the profession. Workers with the requisite experience or training can command higher wages or other benefits since their skills are in high demand. Those looking to make a career switch can currently find ample opportunity for entry-level jobs in construction that pay better than other roles with similar educational requirements.

U.S. Construction Spending

Real construction spending has nearly doubled since its low in 2011

Spending on construction gives a sense of how much potential there is in the industry. Following the Great Recession, construction spending plummeted to an annual rate of $758 billion in February 2011 (equivalent to approximately $1.1 trillion in 2024 dollars). However, since then, inflation-adjusted construction spending has surged by over 95%, surpassing the $2 trillion threshold in mid-2023.

Between 2011 and 2018, both residential and nonresidential construction spending experienced steady growth, albeit with minor fluctuations. However, in 2019, both sectors saw a slight downturn before rebounding in 2020. The residential construction sector witnessed a notable surge between 2020 and 2022, fueled by unprecedented demand and historically low interest rates. Yet, as interest rates have risen, demand for housing has moderated, leading to a decline from its peak. Conversely, nonresidential construction initially declined at the onset of the pandemic but has since experienced a strong resurgence. This growth can be largely attributed to bipartisan legislation that has created funding for both public sector infrastructure projects as well as private sector manufacturing and clean energy initiatives.

 

U.S. Construction Employment Numbers

Total construction employment remains below historical levels

Despite record levels of spending, the construction industry has been plagued by lackluster employment figures since the last recession. After peaking at nearly 10 million jobs during the housing bubble, construction employment plummeted to less than 7 million during the Great Recession and had been trending upward for most of the last decade before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Shutdowns early in the pandemic briefly sent construction employment falling to around 6.5 million in April 2020, but employment in the industry has rebounded to around 8.6 million currently. While the recovery is notable, these employment figures remain around 11% lower than the 2007 peak of 9.8 million, which again underscores the need for more workers in the field.

Given these trends, researchers at Construction Coverage, a website that provides construction insurance guides, set out to identify the most popular construction jobs and understand which roles in the industry are most common in each state.

 

Here is the data breakout for the most popular construction industry occupations in Wisconsin:

 

  • Most popular occupation: Construction Laborers
  • Percentage of total state construction employment: 17.4%
  • Total employment: 19,280
  • Median annual wage: $49,330
  • 2nd most popular occupation: Carpenters
  • Percentage of total state construction employment: 13.9%
  • Total employment: 15,330
  • Median annual wage: $59,070
  • 3rd most popular occupation: First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers                
  • Percentage of total state construction employment: 13.0%
  • Total employment: 14,350
  • Median annual wage: $78,870

For a complete list of Wisconsin construction occupations, a detailed methodology, and complete results for the rest of the U.S., see The Most Popular Construction Jobs in the U.S. on Construction Coverage.