Private sector construction employment in New York City rose 2.4% last year to an average of 114,875, but wages remained flat, according to a recent New York Building Congress (NYBC) study based on New York State Dept. of Labor employment statistics.

Photo by Sue Pearsall
Moving Up: Private sector is expected to continue its gradual climb.

Workers earned an average of $51,060 in the first nine months of 2012, the latest period for which numbers were available, compared with $50,089 for the same prior-year period and $49,224 for the same period in 2010.

“While the relative stagnation in 2012 wages is largely indicative of the overall U.S. job market, it also likely reflects the collective impact of the union contracts signed in 2011, recent project-labor agreements and the increasing use of lower-wage nonunion labor throughout the city,” Dick Anderson, NYBC president, said in a statement.

For the first quarter of 2013, industry employment increased 1.3% to 111,333, compared with the same prior-year period. Despite the slight uptick, average industry employment remains down 13% from 2008, during the height of the city’s building boom, NYBC says.

The specialty trades sector accounted for 74,250 jobs in 2012, a 2.1% increase from the prior year; building constructors accounted for 31,592 jobs, up 3.8% from 2011; and heavy construction and civil engineers accounted for 9,033 jobs, the same amount as in 2011.

Meanwhile, industry executives say there is a slow but gradual recovery in private sector projects with residential construction, in particular, on the rise since 2011.

One positive indicator of the upswing is an increase in project inquiries, designers say.

The public side, however, is expected to tumble as the overall economy remains sluggish. At present, Superstorm Sandy reconstruction work is contributing to moderate growth in the region. "Sandy has helped create this shorter-term infrastructure trend," says Bernie McNeilly, senior vice president of the Northeast region and general manager at Parsons Brinckerhoff.