Construction Industry

The health of the entire economy depends on the construction industry.

The construction industry constitutes one of the largest sectors of the US economy. The dollar value of the industry currently approaches $800 billion. The industry is comprised of more than 729,000 establishments employing 7.2 million workers, in addition to 1.8 million self-employed workers. Because of its size and interdependent relationship with other sectors of the economy, many analysts view the construction industry as a bellwether for the larger economy. To bring back the nation’s economy, the construction industry is an important place to start.

The construction industry has two faces.

Construction can exploit workers in dangerous and temporary dead-end jobs, or it can provide entry to stable, middle-class careers. The “low road,” cash-based construction industry is unregulated. It creates dangerous, low-paying construction jobs with few opportunities for career advancement.

On the other hand, the construction industry is one of the few remaining sectors that provides pathways to safe, middle-class careers, as well as family-supporting wages and benefits. Through registered apprenticeship, workers gain high level skills, proficiency in the latest building technology, and access to good, lifelong careers. For low-income communities, veterans, women and people of color, these opportunities open doors.

This dual character of the construction industry has created challenges for public and private stakeholders that seek to make decisions about how to best construct and retrofit large buildings. It is often difficult to navigate the complex policies and institutions in the field.

The construction industry can be a leader in innovation.

The California Construction Academy, a project of the UCLA Labor Center, works to bridge the knowledge gap about the construction industry through research, facilitation, and popular education.  We envision a construction industry that can lead the nation in triple bottom line returns–for the economy, the environment and society.