Average Hourly Wage of Union and Non-Union Construction Workers

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We just finished up our series on average hourly wages, by state, of 25 different construction professions.  The list included everything from laborers to construction managers and included wages in relation to each state’s cost of living. You can check out that full series by clicking here.

Next, I plan to compile all of the data from the wages by state series and organize them by the state’s ranking to let you know where your construction skills can get the most bang for their buck. Before I get started on that, though, I wanted to examine the relationship between wages in non-union construction trades versus those who are not in the union, or “merit shop.”

Union vs non-union is an argument that has raged on for decades and in many comment sections on various Construction Junkie posts.  What is not up for the debate is that union members certainly make more than their non-union counterparts.  The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) recently released their 6th edition of The Construction Chart Book, which analyzes many different aspects of the industry and its performance.  Included in that report is wage data on union and non-union workers.

Before diving into the wage numbers, it’s important to point out who exactly is in the union and who’s not. As of 2016, only 14.7% of construction workers were union members and an additional 0.8% were covered by union contracts, totaling 15.5%, which is higher than the 11.7% of all other industries combined. Hawaii, Illinois, New York, and Minnesota all have a union membership rate of more than 30%, according to the report. North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, and Florida have the lowest rates of union membership, with less than 5% union participation.

Ironworkers (40%), sheet metal workers (39%), electricians (32%), plumbers (28%), and welders (24%) have the 5 highest union participation rates.  Concrete workers (8%), construction managers (8%), painters (7%), carpet & tile installers (7%), and admin support (2%) are the 5 lowest professions with union membership.

Average Hourly Wage of Union and Non-Union Construction Workers, by Region


Union -- $27.16/hour

Non-union -- $18.64/hour

All -- $21.17/hour


Union -- $27.32/hour

Non-union -- $19.00/hour

All -- $21.48/hour


Union -- $21.79/hour

Non-union -- $16.65/hour

All -- $16.97/hour


Union -- $27.58/hour

Non-union -- $18.86/hour

All -- $20.59/hour