Construction Labor Age Gap Continues to Grow

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Originally Published by: NAHB — June 7, 2023
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The latest labor force statistics from the 2021 American Community Survey show that the construction industry continues to struggle to attract younger workers. While workers under the age of 25 comprised 13.6% of the US labor force, their share in the construction industry reached only 10.0% in 2021. Meanwhile, the share of older construction workers ages 55+ increased from less than 19.3% in 2015 to almost 22.3% in 2021.

Age Breakdown

An earlier post showed that the median age of the construction workforce is 42.  Compared to the workforce in all industries, construction has a relatively smaller share of younger workers, but a larger proportion of workers in their prime-working age. The chart above shows that, as of 2021, only about 10% of construction workers were 16-24 years old, less than the employment share of this age group in all industries.  Around 67.7% of the construction workforce were in the prime working years of 25-54, compared to 63.5% in overall workforce. The relative greater share of workers in construction in the 35-55 age group, mostly Gen X-ers, reveals the current challenge. Gen X is a smaller generational group that the Baby Boomers. The share of workers ages 55 and older was 22.3% in construction, implying that a substantial portion of workforce would retire in near future. Attracting more skilled labor remains the primary long-term goal for the construction industry.

Distribution of Construction Employment

Analysis of the age distribution of construction workers over time reveals that the construction workforce is aging, with the share of older workers ages 55+ rising from 19.3% in 2015 to 22.3% in 2021.  At the same time, the proportion of workers ages 25 to 54 declined from 71.9% to 67.7%. This change in age composition of construction labor force is largely because the last elements of the Baby Boomer generation are entering the 55+ age group. The share of younger construction workers ages 25 under edged up to 9% from 10%.