Why are construction workers supposedly the happiest of any major industry?

Happy Diverse Team of Specialists Wearing White Helmets, Taking and Walking in a Construction Site Image: Tony via AdobeStock (Generated with AI) - stock.adobe.com

Employees are unhappier than ever across all industries, according to new research.

And yet construction workers are, perhaps surprisingly, the happiest in any major industry in the US.

The findings come as part of a new report by HR software provider BambooHR. It found that construction workers are not only the happiest but that their mood was the least volatile. That means that as they were polled on their mood from month to month, there was a lower range in their average scores than among workers in other sectors.

On average, construction workers scored 49 in BambooHR’s database of employee Net Promoter Scores (eNPS). That compares to 41 in the next-happiest sector of technology and 31 in healthcare, the least happy of eight major industries studied.

Construction workers’ eNPS have remained consistently high, ranging from a low of 48 in 2022, up to a high of 53 in 2021.

Construction's average eNPS score, month on month Construction’s average eNPS score, month on month (Source: BambooHR)

So why are construction workers supposedly happier than their peers in other sectors?

The report pinpointed two trends in particular:

  1. High demand for construction work as the manufacturing industry spent big on new facilities amid the collapse of global supply chains during 2022. That was combined with the US government’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which aims to inject $550 billion into roads, bridges, and high-speed internet infrastructure.
  2. Hourly construction wages rose to a 40-year high in 2022, with today’s median hourly wage at $17.58 but as high as $28.58, according to Payscale.

Perhaps oddly, construction workers’ happiness peaked in 2020. Despite the wider uncertainty the covid-19 pandemic created, it may have unexpectedly created greater stability for construction companies.

That’s because in addition to a boom in residential construction projects, the materials shortages that arose amid supply chain issues resulted in deeper backlogs of work for construction firms.

Meanwhile stimulus to protect businesses from the effects of pandemic lockdowns, including the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan, pumped trillions of dollars into the economy.

Are construction workers getting less happy?
Construction - % difference in eNPS month on month Construction - % difference in eNPS month on month (Source: BambooHR)

There are seasonal variations in construction workers’ happiness.

The report found that there are lower scores in the autumn, before they rise again towards the end of the year.

However, construction workers’ happiness has tapered off slightly since 2020. And from January to May 2023, it declined at a rate of 81%, according to BambooHR.

That was a sharp drop compared to the gentler average decline of 13% from 2020 through to the present and could indicate that the mood among workers is changing.

One factor that could affect workers’ happiness is the ongoing shortage of skilled personnel in the sector.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) has previously reported that the construction industry will need 546,000 workers to meet demand in 2023 and a report from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk has warned separately that 91% of construction companies are having a hard time finding workers.

That shortage could place more pressure on existing workers in the industry, as well as prompting an influx of inexperienced workers who have greater training needs, BambooHR’s report warned. And it urged human resources professionals to focus on recruitment strategies and training programmes to cater for that influx of less experienced employees.

How the results were compiled

To gauge the happiness of workers, the report has been building a database of regular, self-reported answers to two questions that aim to measure employee satisfaction.

One asks employees to give a numeric rating of how likely employees are to recommend their organisation as a place to work. The second is an open question about their reasoning.

The database is based on information from 1,600 companies. There were more than 1.4 billion self-reported eNPS scores since January 2020, according to BambooHR.

Want to see more construction insights?
Sign up to the
Construction Briefing

Receive the information you need when you need it through our world-leading magazines, newsletters and daily briefings.

Sign up

Andy Brown Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786224 E-mail: [email protected]
Neil Gerrard Senior Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 7355 092 771 E-mail: [email protected]
Catrin Jones Deputy Editor, Editorial, UK – Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 791 2298 133 E-mail: [email protected]
Eleanor Shefford Brand Manager Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786 236 E-mail: [email protected]