Employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is projected to grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for plumbers is expected to come from new building construction and stricter water efficiency standards for plumbing systems, such as low-flow toilets and showerheads.
The construction of new power plants and factories should spur demand for pipefitters and steamfitters. Beginning in 2011, employment of sprinklerfitters and plumbers is expected to increase as states adopt a change to the International Residential Code that requires new single- and double-family homes to have fire sprinkler systems.
Job opportunities are expected to be good as some employers continue to report difficulty finding qualified professionals. In addition, many workers are expected to retire over the next 10 years, which will result in more job openings. Workers with welding experience may have the best opportunities.
Like that of many other types of construction work, employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is sensitive to fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.
However, maintenance and repair of plumbing and pipe systems must continue even during economic downturns, so plumbers and fitters outside of construction, especially those in manufacturing, tend to have more stable employment.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition