Women and Minorities Dwindling in Construction Industry

Construction saw a drop of 15,000 jobs last month (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images).
Construction saw a drop of 15,000 jobs last month (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images).


The number of women and minorities in the New York City construction industry has dropped, a report released today shows.

Those identifying as either white or Hispanic dominated the demographic makeup of the construction industry, as the share of minority workers decrease, according to an analysis by the New York Building Congress of the most recent census data. White workers accounted for 41 percent, while Hispanics were close behind at 38 percent. Both the share of blacks as well as Asians each dropped a percentage point between 2013 and 2014 to 12 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

But the largest drop was among women in the construction industry, which fell to 7 percent of the workforce in 2014 from 9 percent a year earlier. The decrease was steepest among women who never attended college, tumbling to 4,588 workers in 2014 from 9,220 employees in 2013. Women with at least partial college education increased, but the gain was paltry, 3 percent, to 12,008 from 11,649.

“What is concerning, however, is that we are not seeing greater levels of participation among women, especially young women, as well as non-Hispanic minority groups,” Richard Anderson, the head of the Building Congress, said in a press release. “We must do a better job of attracting, training and retaining a diverse workforce. The first step is to increase our support of those organizations that promote careers in design and construction through a range of educational and mentoring programs for men and women of all ages, ethnicities and educational backgrounds.”

Most of the construction industry in the Big Apple is relegated to labor and blue-collar jobs, according to the report, making up 80 percent of all building jobs. The remaining 20 percent is filled by managers, engineers and architects.

More than half of the industry said that English was their first language, which was followed by 35 percent of self-identified Spanish speakers, 4 percent as native Polish speakers and 3 percent speak Chinese.

Roughly three quarters of the 238,800 people working construction within the five boroughs lived within the boundaries of New York City in 2014, according to the Building Congress. Long Islanders and commuters from New Jersey made up one-tenth of the workers.

Staten Islanders had the shortest commute of any of those living in the city, according to the report. That’s because 81 percent of those working in the borough also lived on the island. That’s followed by Brooklyn, where 62 percent of the construction workforce called the development-heavy area home. Queens and the Bronx were a virtual tie when it came to a native workforce, with 57 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

Manhattan was the biggest importer of labor. A mere 14 percent of the workers in Manhattan lived on the island, the report indicates.  

“One of the best aspects of working in New York City’s construction industry is that it is a source of tremendous pride to be able to help build the homes, schools, parks, roads and other community facilities that, for the 75 percent of the workforce living in the city, are so vital to your family and your neighbors’ quality of life,” Mr. Anderson said.

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