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More Gen Zers entering the construction industry

The median age of construction workers is 42, one year older than a typical worker in the national labor force, according to NAHB analysis of the most recent 2022 American Community Survey (ACS) data. However, more younger people are joining the construction industry. Despite some improvements since the peak of the skilled labor shortage in 2021, attracting skilled labor remains the primary long-term goal for the construction industry.

The median age of construction industry workers varies across states. The color coding in the map above tracks the median age of people working in the construction industry.  The state with the oldest median age (45 years old) is West Virginia, followed by Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, where the median age of construction workers is 44. Construction workers are younger on average in the central part of the nation. For example, half of all construction workers in Utah are under 39.

The second data series mapped above is the difference between the median age of construction workers in each state and the median age of all industries. These estimates are reported as the numbers printed on each state. A positive number indicates that on average, construction workers are older than a typical worker in the state labor force.  West Virginia, New York and Rhode Island are the states where the median age of construction workers is 3 years higher than the overall median. On the other hand, a negative number indicates construction workers are, in general, younger than the state labor force.  In South Dakota and Wyoming, the median age of construction workers is 1 year younger than the overall median.

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Analysis of the age distribution of construction workers over time reveals that Gen Z, those born between mid-1990s and early 2010s, are more likely to enter the construction industry than Millennials, when they were the youngest generation in the labor force.  They are drawn to careers in the construction industry due to factors, like the innovative aspects of modern construction technologies, high cost of college education, competitive wages in construction, job security and potential for growth.

Proving this point, the share of younger construction workers ages 25 under increased to 10.8% in 2022 from 9% in 2015. At the same time, the proportion of workers aged 35 to 54 declined from 71.8% to 67.3% in 2022. The share of older workers aged 55+ rose from 19.1% to 21.8%, as the youngest Baby Boomers entered this age cohort.

The chart below shows that, as of 2022, only about 16.8% of construction workers were Gen Zers.  Around 66.9% of the construction workforce were Millennials and Gen-Xers, who are in the prime working years, compared to 62.2% in overall workforce. The relative greater share of Gen X construction workforce reveals the current challenge. Gen X is a smaller generational group than the Baby Boomers. The share of Baby Boomer Construction workforce is 16.2%, implying that a substantial portion of workforce would retire in near future. Attracting more skilled labor, especially younger generations, remains the primary long-term goal for the construction industry.

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