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Construction Laborers and Helpers

Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1n6nBhVzdo.
Quick Facts: Construction Laborers and Helpers
2023 Median Pay $44,310 per year
$21.30 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2022 1,624,800
Job Outlook, 2022-32 4% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 57,900

What Construction Laborers and Helpers Do

Construction laborers and helpers perform tasks, such as using, supplying, or holding materials or tools and cleaning work areas and equipment, on construction sites.

Work Environment

Most construction laborers and helpers work full time, and schedules may vary. Their jobs are often physically demanding and may require being outdoors in all weather conditions.

How to Become a Construction Laborer or Helper

Construction laborers and helpers learn on the job. Although formal education is not typically required, some employers may prefer to hire candidates who have a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Pay

The median annual wage for construction laborers and helpers was $44,310 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of construction laborers and helpers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 151,400 openings for construction laborers and helpers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for construction laborers and helpers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of construction laborers and helpers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about construction laborers and helpers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Construction Laborers and Helpers Do About this section

Construction laborers and helpers
Construction laborers and helpers assist tradesworkers.

Construction laborers and helpers perform tasks, such as using, supplying, or holding materials or tools and cleaning work areas and equipment, on construction sites.

Duties

Construction laborers and helpers typically do the following:

  • Clean and prepare construction sites by removing debris and possible hazards
  • Load or unload building materials to be used in construction
  • Build or take apart bracing, scaffolding, and temporary structures
  • Dig trenches, backfill holes, or compact earth to prepare for construction
  • Operate power tools and handtools, such as jackhammers, saws, and drills
  • Assist tradesworkers, such as electricians and plumbers, with their duties

Construction laborers and helpers work on almost all construction sites, performing a range of tasks that may vary in complexity.

Construction laborers, also referred to as construction craft laborers, are involved in a variety of activities during all phases of construction. Some laborers spend their time preparing and cleaning up construction sites, using tools such as shovels and brooms. Other laborers, such as those on road crews, may specialize and learn to control traffic patterns or to operate pavement breakers, jackhammers, earth tampers, or surveying equipment.

With special training, laborers may help transport and use explosives or run hydraulic boring machines to dig tunnels. They may learn to use lasers to place pipes and learn to use computers to control robotic pipe cutters.

Helpers assist construction tradesworkers with a variety of tasks. They may carry tools and materials or help set up equipment. For example, some helpers work with cement masons to move and set the forms that determine the shape of poured concrete. Others assist with tool maintenance, cleaning up sites, and disposing of waste, as well as helping tradesworkers with other tasks.

Many construction occupations have helpers who assist tradesworkers, including:

Apprentices to electricians, plumbers, and other tradesworkers may have tasks that are similar to those of helpers. Information about apprentices is included in the profile for their respective tradesworker.

Work Environment About this section

Construction laborers and helpers
Construction laborers and helpers wear gloves, safety glasses, and other protective gear.

Construction laborers and helpers held about 1.6 million jobs in 2022. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up construction laborers and helpers was distributed as follows:

Construction laborers 1,418,600
Helpers--electricians 72,500
Helpers--pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters 47,800
Helpers, construction trades, all other 28,300
Helpers--carpenters 25,100
Helpers--brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters 17,900
Helpers--painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons 8,700
Helpers--roofers 5,900

The largest employers of construction laborers and helpers were as follows:

Specialty trade contractors 32%
Self-employed workers 25
Construction of buildings 17
Heavy and civil engineering construction 15
Temporary help services 3

Construction laborers and helpers often work outdoors in all weather conditions. Some work at great heights; others work in confined spaces. Travel to jobsites may be required.

Injuries and Illnesses

Some types of construction laborers and helpers have high rates of injuries and illnesses compared with those of all occupations.

Workers may experience cuts from materials and tools, falls from ladders and scaffolding, and burns from chemicals or equipment. Construction sites may expose workers to loud noises; harmful materials, fumes, or odors; and dangerous machinery. Workers must use earplugs around loud equipment and wear gloves, safety glasses, and other protective gear to guard against other hazards.

Workers also may experience muscle fatigue and strains related to lifting and carrying heavy materials. To prevent these and other injuries, workers must follow established safety guidelines, standards, and techniques.

Work Schedules

Most construction laborers and helpers work full time, and work schedules may vary. Laborers and helpers on highway and bridge projects may need to work overnight to avoid causing traffic disruptions. In some parts of the country, construction laborers and helpers may work only during certain seasons. For example, in northern climates, cold weather frequently limits construction activity in the winter.

Some construction laborers are self-employed. In contrast, few helpers are self-employed.

How to Become a Construction Laborer or Helper About this section

Construction laborers and helpers
Construction laborers and helpers learn on the job, often under the guidance of experienced workers.

Construction laborers and helpers learn on the job. Formal education is not typically required, but some employers may prefer to hire candidates who have a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Education

Although laborers and helpers typically do not need a formal educational credential, employers may prefer to hire those who have a high school diploma or the equivalent. For example, an employer may require or prefer that helpers of electricians and helpers of pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters have completed high school.

High school classes that may be helpful include mathematics, such as algebra and geometry, and those that are part of career and technical education programs, such as construction technology or welding.

Training

Construction laborers and helpers typically learn on the job. They may start out by shadowing experienced workers, observing what those workers do and performing tasks under their guidance.

Some construction laborers complete apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship programs, which are usually sponsored by local unions or trade associations, combine on-the-job training with technical instruction.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Employers often require that construction laborers and helpers complete safety certification that meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, either before or after being hired.

A valid driver’s license also may be required.

Some workers choose to earn optional certifications related to their tasks, such as rigging or scaffolding. Certification helps workers demonstrate that they have the knowledge to perform more complex tasks.

Advancement

After gaining experience, laborers may have opportunities to supervise staff, oversee jobsites, or start their own business.

Helpers sometimes move into construction trades after gaining experience in the field, along with completing any required credentials or training. For example, an electrician’s helper might earn a high school equivalency to enter an electrician apprenticeship and, eventually, go on to become an electrician.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Electricians’ helpers must be able to distinguish different colors of wire to help the lead electrician.

Interpersonal skills. Construction laborers and helpers need to work as a team, cooperating with and assisting others. They also may interact with customers.

Math skills. Construction laborers and some helpers need to do basic math calculations, such as when measuring on jobsites or assisting a surveying crew.

Mechanical skills. Construction laborers are frequently required to operate and maintain equipment, such as jackhammers.

Physical stamina. Construction laborers and helpers must be able to do strenuous tasks throughout the day.

Physical strength. Construction laborers and helpers must be able to lift or move heavy materials and equipment.

Pay About this section

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Median annual wages, May 2023

Construction and extraction occupations

$55,680

Total, all occupations

$48,060

Construction laborers

$45,300

Construction laborers and helpers

$44,310

Helpers, construction trades

$38,630

 

The median annual wage for construction laborers and helpers was $44,310 in May 2023. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,200, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,310.

Median annual wages for construction laborers and helpers in May 2023 were as follows:

Construction laborers $45,300
Helpers--brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters 42,470
Helpers, construction trades, all other 40,220
Helpers--carpenters 39,380
Helpers--roofers 38,620
Helpers--electricians 38,340
Helpers--pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters 37,650
Helpers--painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons 37,010

In May 2023, the median annual wages for construction laborers and helpers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Heavy and civil engineering construction $46,160
Construction of buildings 46,110
Specialty trade contractors 43,000
Temporary help services 34,450

Most construction laborers and helpers work full time, and work schedules may vary. Laborers and helpers on highway and bridge projects may need to work overnight to avoid causing traffic disruptions. In some parts of the country, construction laborers and helpers may work only during certain seasons. For example, in northern climates, cold weather frequently limits construction activity in the winter.

Some construction laborers are self-employed. In contrast, few helpers are self-employed.

Job Outlook About this section

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Construction laborers

4%

Construction laborers and helpers

4%

Construction and extraction occupations

3%

Total, all occupations

3%

Helpers, construction trades

-2%

 

Overall employment of construction laborers and helpers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 151,400 openings for construction laborers and helpers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Projected employment of construction laborers and helpers varies by occupation (see table). Construction laborers work in all fields of construction, and demand for laborers should mirror the level of overall construction activity. Repairing and replacing the nation’s infrastructure, such as roads and water lines, may result in steady demand for laborers.

Employment growth for specific types of construction helpers is expected to be driven by the construction and renovation of homes and nonresidential structures. However, shifts in preference for materials, such as prefabricated components, will continue to reduce demand for helpers of carpenters, of electricians, and of other construction workers.

Employment projections data for construction laborers and helpers, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Construction laborers and helpers

1,624,800 1,682,600 4 57,900

Construction laborers

47-2061 1,418,600 1,480,500 4 61,900 Get data

Helpers--brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters

47-3011 17,900 15,900 -11 -2,000 Get data

Helpers--carpenters

47-3012 25,100 23,700 -5 -1,300 Get data

Helpers--electricians

47-3013 72,500 70,000 -3 -2,500 Get data

Helpers--painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons

47-3014 8,700 8,900 2 100 Get data

Helpers--pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

47-3015 47,800 48,900 2 1,100 Get data

Helpers--roofers

47-3016 5,900 6,000 2 100 Get data

Helpers, construction trades, all other

47-3019 28,300 28,800 2 400 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of construction laborers and helpers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Carpenters Carpenters

Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

High school diploma or equivalent $56,350
Electricians Electricians

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $61,590
Hazardous materials removal workers Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of harmful substances such as asbestos, lead, and radioactive waste.

High school diploma or equivalent $47,280
Painters, construction and maintenance Painters, Construction and Maintenance

Painters apply paint, stain, and coatings to walls and ceilings, buildings, large machinery and equipment, and bridges and other structures.

No formal educational credential $47,700
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair piping fixtures and systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $61,550
Material moving machine operators Material Moving Machine Operators

Material moving machine operators use equipment to transport objects.

See How to Become One $44,750
Grounds maintenance workers Grounds Maintenance Workers

Grounds maintenance workers install and maintain landscapes, prune trees or shrubs, and do other tasks to ensure that vegetation is attractive, orderly, and safe.

See How to Become One $37,690
Tile and marble setters Flooring Installers and Tile and Stone Setters

Flooring installers and tile and stone setters lay and finish carpet, wood, vinyl, tile, and other materials.

No formal educational credential $48,690
Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons Masonry Workers

Masonry workers use bricks, concrete and concrete blocks, and natural and manmade stones to build structures.

See How to Become One $53,010

Contacts for More Information About this section

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities in these occupations, contact the offices of the state employment service; the state apprenticeship agency; local contractors or firms that employ construction laborers and helpers; or local union–management finishing trade apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For more information about construction laborers and helpers, visit

Associated Builders and Contractors

Laborers’ International Union of North America

NCCER

Occupational Requirements Survey

For a profile highlighting selected BLS data on occupational requirements, see

Construction laborers (PDF)

CareerOneStop

For career videos on construction laborers and helpers, visit

Construction Laborers

Helpers – Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters

Helpers – Carpenters

Helpers – Electricians

Helpers – Painters, Paperhangers, Plasters, and Stucco Masons

Helpers – Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Helpers – Roofers

O*NET

Construction Laborers

Helpers, Construction Trades, All Other

Helpers-Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters

Helpers-Carpenters

Helpers-Electricians

Helpers-Painters, Paperhangers, Plasterers, and Stucco Masons

Helpers-Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Helpers-Roofers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Construction Laborers and Helpers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/construction-laborers-and-helpers.htm (visited April 22, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.