Percentage of Uninsured Workers Rising in Construction Industry and Non-United States Citizens 39 Percent of Tradesman
January 13, 2011
Around Town – By Neal Tepel
A New York Building Congress analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 American Community Survey found that 75 percent of New York City construction industry workers live in the five boroughs, led by residents of Queens and Brooklyn. As of 2010, there were 224,500 men and women in the construction industry, down 3.8 percent from 2009. The census data include both white-collar and blue-collar positions in private firms and on government payrolls.
The construction trades accounted for 165,300 of these positions, down from 171,000 in 2009. The analysis is based on personal responses to the Census Bureau survey and incorporates both union and non-union labor, as well as management positions, architects, engineers, office support and other service workers connected to the construction industry. Because the results are self-reported by individuals rather than by employers, the survey captures the participation of "off-the-books" workers throughout the industry.
In 2010, White Non-Hispanic men and women accounted for 88,700 (40 percent) of the 224,500 workers. Hispanics made up 80,700 (36 percent) of the total workforce, followed by Black Non-Hispanic at 31,600 (14 percent) and Asian workers at 21,200 (9 percent). One percent identified themselves as multi-racial. From 2009 to 2010, the number of White Non-Hispanic and Hispanic workers decreased (by 8 percent and 5 percent respectively). The industry's Asian workforce jumped 12 percent. The number of Black Non-Hispanic workers increased 2 percent. Of the 168,200 construction industry workers who lived in New York City in 2010, 63,600 were Queens residents. Another 53,700 lived in Brooklyn, followed by 24,200 from The Bronx, 14,400 from Staten Island, and 12,300 who lived in Manhattan.
Non-United States citizens accounted for 39 percent of the total construction industry workforce and 45 percent of all construction trades workers. In addition, 56 percent of all respondents said they speak a language other than English in their homes. After English speakers, the largest percentage of workers speak Spanish (34 percent), followed by Chinese (3.2 percent) and Polish (2.7 percent).
The industry also is maintaining its reputation as a haven for middle-class employment, with 49 percent of all workers living in households with incomes between $50,000 and $125,000 annually. Just eight percent of all workers in the construction industry self-reported household earnings of less than $25,000 in 2010.
Construction workers are increasingly going without health insurance. Forty-nine percent of all construction industry workers lacked health insurance in 2010, up from 45 percent in 2009. In addition, 55 percent of construction trades workers were uninsured in 2010, up from 53 percent in the previous year. By contrast, just 25 percent of white collar workers in the industry reported having no health insurance – though even that number is up from 20 percent in 2009.
Additional 2010 demographic statistics include: Males accounted for 93 percent of the overall workforce in 2010. 28 percent of the industry workforce is between 40 and 49; 27 percent are in their thirties; 19 percent are in their twenties; and 18 percent in their fifties. 22,700 workers lived on Long Island and 19,100 lived in New Jersey. Another 12,400 lived in the Mid-Hudson region counties while 1,200 commuted from Connecticut. 64 percent of all construction industry workers never attended college.
"New York City's construction industry has been and remains a vital source of meaningful employment opportunities for recent immigrants and residents of all educational backgrounds," said New York Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson. "These data demonstrate the important role the industry continues to play, especially during periods of high unemployment for the City as a whole and the middle class in particular." Mr. Anderson added, "It is disconcerting, however, to find that the number of workers who go without health insurance – which was unacceptably high to begin with – continues to rise, especially among the skilled trades. Given that the City's unions provide health benefits to all members, it is obvious that those working at non-union sites are overwhelmingly going without such benefits for themselves and their families."