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Construction Industry Must Continue to Advance Diversity in its Ranks

Black female construction worker Image provided by New York Building Congress

NEW YORK CITY—A recent analysis of the city’s construction employment data offered mixed results in terms of the industry’s push for a more diverse workforce. The New York Building Congress report released Wednesday notes that a total of 250,270 men and women were employed in the construction industry throughout the five boroughs in ’16, a decrease of 1% from 2015.

The Building Congress review of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey statistics showed the number of white non-Hispanic workers outpaced Hispanic workers in ’16. Those results were a reversal of trends from ’15, but adhered to the larger demographic trends since 2005. The percentage of women in the industry remained the same and showed little improvement from previous years.

Workers who self-identify as white increased from 95,841 to 100,326 (40% of the workforce) in 2016, compared to a decrease from 95,874 to 88,788 (36% of the workforce) of Hispanic workers. Non-white workers comprised 60% of the workforce in 2016, a decrease of 2.3% from 2015’s totals.

The number of black workers increased from 35,354 to 35,941 (14% of the workforce), the number of Asian workers decreased from 25,075 to 23,188 (9% of the workforce) and the number of workers who self-identify as two or more races increased from 1,840 to 2,027 (under 1% of the workforce). The share of women in the construction industry in ’16 remained the same as the previous year at 7.6%, accounting for a total of 19,119 workers.

“While we have made real strides towards a more inclusive and diverse workforce, we still have work to do recruiting and mentoring women and minorities for successful careers in design and construction,” says New York Building Congress president and CEO Carlo A. Scissura. “The building industry supports programs providing greater access to jobs and ensuing workers are getting the wages, benefits, and training they deserve, especially those who may be working on the fringes of the industry.”

The report also reinforces the idea that the construction industry’s bullish performance of late has translated into real job opportunities and now can be viewed as “one of the backbones of the middle class in New York,” the Building Congress says.

More than half (56%) of all New York City construction workers reported earning less than $50,000 per year in ’16. Another 30% earned between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, while 14% posted wages of more than $100,000 in ’16.

Approximately 25% of construction workers had an annual household income below $50,000, 31% reported a range between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, while 45% had annual household incomes above $100,000 in 2016. The Building Congress notes that household incomes are higher than reported individual earnings; therefore suggesting multiple earners or additional sources of income could explain the household income versus individual wage results.

“This Building Congress survey reaffirms our own data showing that a strong construction industry labor market is providing opportunities for New Yorkers from diverse backgrounds,” says Gary LaBarbera, president of the 100,000-member Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “The nationally recognized Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills has welcomed close to 2,000 New York City residents into apprenticeship programs, helping strengthen and diversify the city’s middle class.”

The vast majority of New York City’s construction industry’s workforce is based in the five boroughs, according to the survey data. A total of 76% hailed from one of the five boroughs in ’16, a similar figure as the previous year.

Residents of Long Island and New Jersey each made up 9% of the workforce, while residents in the Mid-Hudson region accounted for 6% and Connecticut residents totaled 1%. A deeper dive of workers in the boroughs shows that 39% lived in Queens, followed by Brooklyn at 32% the Bronx at 14%, Staten Island at 9% and Manhattan at 6%.

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