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Why Construction Jobs Don't Pay

Updated on February 1, 2012

under (paid) construction

Construction pay less now than ten years ago

If you are a young person considering getting into the construction industry, this is one article that you need to read before you make up your mind. Don't get me wrong, working with your hands is a honorable living and I think everyone needs to experience real physical labor, this is to appreciate just how difficult it can be. That being said.

Fifteen years ago I started a house framing company in the north Georgia area. The economy was good and building was a growing industry. I hired people with knowledge to help me and paid them a decent living wage at the time. In 1995 I was paying a lead carpenter between twenty and twenty five dollars and hour and hard working laborers and nail drivers were making at a minimum thirteen to fourteen an hour depending on skill level. This was hard work, and you earn every dime you made, but you made good money, got paid on Friday and everyone did well. As a framing contractor my rates were usually between $4.00 and $4.50 a square foot, plus extra, extras being; fireplace chases above two stories, specialty stairs and other types of work that would require extended amounts of time to complete. Like I said, this was in 1995, and where I lived at the time, we didn't have to compete with illegal alien labor.

Fast forward to 2012. The going rate to frame a house in the depressed market is now around $1.75 to $2.00 a square foot. The illegal labor that imported itself into the market during the housing boom has now depressed the labor market to the point where they are the only ones working. The average pay for a lead carpenter that can only speak English is $15 to $16 dollars an hour and the grunts are making around $8.00 an hour.The depressed labor rates, especially here in the south, have builders in the area wondering why they would every pay anyone more? They can reduce the cost of the home, without reducing their profit, either in margin or dollar amounts.

We use to look at the trade as a way to provide for our families and make a halfway decent living. Now, it is just a day cash job for many, especially for the young people that need money and simply have no choice, due the economic conditions in the US.

Framing isn't the only trade effected. All trades that doesn't require a license to participate has been affected. When you hire someone to do work for you around the house and someone quotes you a price that you think is so great, remember there is a reason. Carpet and flooring installers have been undercut and put out of business, roofers are still doing the same jobs for what they were paid ten years ago and finding an American painter is just about a thing of the past. I know contractors that use to be in the business and have shut the doors, fired their employees and started just subcontracting to the illegals because there was no other way to compete.

So, if you are young and considering the construction business, stay in school and do it for the experience. Builders now days don't build anything, they contract out everything to the cheapest bidder and hope for the best. It use to be, if you called yourself a builder, you could actually build a house, building or other structure, not anymore. Anyone can go to school, get a contractor license, borrow money to build a house, the subcontract out all the work and call himself or herself a builder, really.

If you have a warranty problem with your new home, there is probably a reason. It was built by the cheapest labor that money could buy. The next time you visit a neighborhood being built, take a look around, more than likely you will see what I am talking about. If you have the time stop and see if the builder is on site, if he or she is, it will be the exception, not the rule.


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    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 5 years ago from western pennsylvania

      This is so very true. Last summer we got invaded in the north. There had been a bad storm in this area doing a lot of hail damage. So there was a lot of insurance work. Next thing you know all theses trucks are up here from Texas ans Arizona with illegals doing all the work. They took a lot from us. So I know what you are talking about. Very hard to compete


    • profile image

      self employed myself 5 years ago

      I agree and now states are making you become licensed and carry insurance even if you don't have employees you will starve. If one customer pays there is one that doesn't and by the time it is all said and done you are broke and they have the house or shop or concrete slab that you put there and they pay you materials and ask for receipts!