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States and Construction Trades Most Reliant on Immigrant Workers, 2024

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Introduction

Immigrants play a significant role in the construction industry in the United States. In 2022, one in four construction workers were immigrants, with even higher percentages in specific trades and states. This article explores the reliance on immigrant workers in construction, the types of trades most affected, and the distribution of immigrant workers across the country.

The Importance of Immigrant Workers

In 2024, immigrants made up 25% of the overall construction workforce, and 31% of tradesmen. In states like California and Texas, this reliance is even more pronounced, with immigrants comprising 40% of the construction workforce. Increased immigration since 2022 has helped ease labor shortages, but these shortages remain a significant challenge.

Types of Construction Jobs

The construction industry employs workers in about 380 different occupations. However, only 33 of these are construction trades, which account for almost two-thirds of the labor force. The remaining one-third are involved in finance, sales, administration, and other off-site activities.

Key Trades and Immigrant Workers

Certain trades within the construction industry are particularly reliant on immigrant workers. For example:

  • Plasterers and Stucco Masons: 64% are immigrants.
  • Drywall/Ceiling Tile Installers: 52% are immigrants.
  • Painters: 48% are immigrants.
  • Roofers: 47% are immigrants.
  • Carpet/Floor/Tile Installers: 46% are immigrants.

Laborers and carpenters, the most common construction occupations, also have high percentages of immigrant workers, with 41% of laborers and one-third of carpenters being foreign-born. These trades often require less formal education but are consistently in high demand, as shown by the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) and the NAHB Remodeling Market Index (RMI).

Labor Shortages in Key Trades

In the February 2024 HMI Survey, 65% of builders reported a shortage of finished carpenters. Shortages are also significant among bricklayers, masons, electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians. These trades require more formal training and professional licenses, making it harder to attract enough workers, including immigrants.

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Distribution of Immigrant Workers Across States

Immigrant construction workers are concentrated in a few states. More than half of all immigrant construction workers live in California, Texas, Florida, and New York. These states not only have large populations but also rely heavily on immigrant labor.

In California and Texas, immigrants make up close to 40% of the construction workforce. Florida has 38% and New York/New Jersey has 37%. States like New Jersey, Nevada, and Maryland also have high percentages of immigrant construction workers (over one-third). Other states with significant immigrant construction workforces include Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia, Rhode Island, and Arizona.

States with Lower Reliance on Immigrant Workers

In contrast, nine northern states have less than 5% of their construction workforce made up of immigrants. This shows that while some states are heavily reliant on immigrant labor, others depend far less on it.

Conclusion

Immigrants are crucial to the construction industry, particularly in specific trades and states. The reliance on foreign-born workers helps address labor shortages but also highlights the need for better recruitment and training strategies to ensure a steady supply of skilled labor. As the industry continues to grow, finding ways to attract both domestic and immigrant workers will be essential for its success.

FAQs

  1. Why are immigrant workers important in construction?
    • They help fill labor shortages and are highly represented in key trades.
  2. Which trades have the highest percentage of immigrant workers?
    • Trades like plasterers, stucco masons, drywall installers, painters, and roofers have high percentages of immigrant workers.
  3. Which states rely most on immigrant construction workers?
    • California, Texas, Florida, and New York have the highest reliance, with nearly 40% of their construction workforce being immigrants.
  4. What are the challenges with labor shortages in construction?
    • Despite increased immigration, there are still shortages, especially in trades requiring formal training and licenses.
  5. How is the distribution of immigrant workers across the US?
    • While some states have high percentages of immigrant workers, others, particularly in the north, have much lower percentages.
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