By Lital Shair Nada, research economist, ARTBA
Highway and bridge contractor employment increased 3 percent in 2019 compared to 2018, with contractors adding over 9,900 employees to the payroll, according to the year-end data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs were added at a faster rate than the overall economy— total average employment in the U.S. grew by one percent last year.
Nearly 90 percent of the new jobs—8,900 positions—were added to the job site as contractors performed more work on highway and bridge projects. These employees also worked slightly longer hours each week, averaging 44.3 hours in 2019 compared to 43.9 in 2018. Over the peak summer construction season, workers on job sites averaged as many as 47.8 hours per week. These workers are also earning more—average hourly earnings inched up from $28.60 per hour in 2018 to an average of $29.28 per hour in 2019.
The additional work has helped spur demand across the different industries that supply materials and goods for transportation construction. Employment was up for the stone mining and quarrying (+1.5%), aggregates (+2.4%) and ready-mix concrete production (+4.7%). Average annual employment by other heavy contractors, which focus on transit, airport and ports and waterway construction, was 122,300 in 2019—up 3 percent compared to 2018, with an additional 3,700 employees.
ARTBA is forecasting continued growth in the transportation construction market in 2020, and we expect employment to increase as more workers are needed. See our February labor report.