States and Construction Trades Most Reliant on Immigrant Workers, 2022


As we reported earlier, immigrants make one in four construction workers. The share is significantly higher (31%) among construction tradesmen. In some states, reliance on foreign-born labor is particularly evident, with immigrants comprising 40% of the construction workforce in California and Texas. Supported by a substantial increase in immigration to the United States since 2022, labor shortages in construction have eased but remain elevated. According to the government’s system for classifying occupations, the construction industry employs workers in about 380 occupations. Out of these, only 33 are construction trades, yet they account for almost two thirds of the construction labor force. The other one-third of workers are in finance, sales, administration and other off-site activities. The concentration of immigrants is particularly high in construction trades essential for home building, such as plasterers and stucco masons (64%), drywall/ceiling tile installers (52%), painters (48%), roofers (47%), carpet/floor/tile installers (46%). The two most prevalent construction occupations, laborers and carpenters, account for over a quarter of the construction labor force. A third of all carpenters and 41% of construction laborers are of foreign-born origin. These trades require less formal education but consistently register some of the highest labor shortages in the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) surveys and NAHB Remodeling Market Index (RMI). In the latest February 2024 HMI Survey, 65% of builders reported some or serious shortage of workers performing finished carpentry. Looking at other tradesmen directly employed by builders, the shortages of bricklayers and masons are similarly acute, despite a high presence of immigrant workers in these trades. Labor shortages are also high among electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians, with over half of surveyed builders reporting shortages of these craftsmen. In contrast, these trades demand longer formal training, often require professional licenses and attract fewer immigrants.Reliance on foreign-born labor is quite uneven across the US states. Immigrants comprise close to 40% of the construction workforce in California and Texas. In Florida, 38% of the construction labor force is foreign-born. In New York and New Jersey, 37% of construction industry workers come from abroad. Construction immigrants are concentrated in a few populous states, with more than half of all immigrant construction workers (56%) residing in California, Texas, Florida, and New York. These are not only the most populous states in the U.S., but also particularly reliant on foreign-born construction labor. However, the reliance on foreign-born labor continues to spread outside of these traditional immigrant magnets. This is evident in states like New Jersey, Nevada, and Maryland where immigrants, as of 2022, account for over a third of the construction labor force. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia, Rhode Island, and Arizona, one out of four construction workers are foreign-born. At the other end of the spectrum, nine northern states have the share of immigrant workers below 5%. While most states draw the majority of immigrant foreign-born workers from the Americas, Hawaii relies more heavily on Asian immigrants. European immigrants are a significant source of construction labor in New York, New Jersey and Illinois.