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Construction Laborers and Helpers Job Outlook

Employment of construction laborers is expected to grow 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Laborers work in all fields of construction, and demand for laborers will mirror the level of overall construction activity. Repairing and replacing the nation’s infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and water lines, should result in steady demand for laborers.

Although employment growth of specific types of helpers is expected to vary (see table below), demand for helpers will be driven by the construction of schools, office buildings, factories, and powerplants. Population growth also is expected to result in new-home construction, which will stimulate the need for many additional helpers. Remodeling needs will also result in some new jobs.  

However, demand for helpers is also affected by economic downturns. In the slowdown in construction since the 2007-09 recession, the number of jobs for helpers decreased faster than jobs for the workers they help. Contractors kept their more experienced workers and had them do tasks that helpers would normally do. As construction returns to normal levels, helpers will be needed to do their standard tasks again.

Job Prospects

Construction laborers with the most skills should have the best job opportunities. Opportunities also will vary by occupation; for example, carpenters’ helpers should have the best job prospects, while painters’, paperhangers’, plasterers’, and stucco masons’ helpers will likely find fewer job openings. Prospective employees with military service often have better opportunities when applying for a job.

Employment of construction laborers and helpers is especially sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers in these trades may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of these workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition