This chapter provides an overview of the contribution of the construction sector to the economy and the use of transportation by the sector. The construction sector consists of establishments engaging in the construction of buildings or engineering projects (e.g., highways and utility systems), the preparation of sites for new construction, or subdivision of land for sale as building sites.1
The sector uses less transportation services than all other sectors except the utilities and the natural resources and mining sectors in absolute dollars. However, on the basis of transportation required per dollar of output, the construction sector requires slightly more transportation services than most other sectors. The sector relies heavily on truck transportation services, using more dollars of truck transportation services than all other modes combined, and employing more in motor vehicle occupations than any other transportation occupation.
In 2015 the construction sector contributed $716.9 billion (4.0 percent) to the national economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) (figure 4-1). The construction sector contributed less to the economy than many sectors but builds the transportation infrastructure needed to move the goods produced by other sectors throughout the economy.
The largest amount of construction activity occurred in California ($87.5 billion), followed by Texas ($84.9 billion), New York ($45.1 billion), and Florida ($40.8 billion)— each of which accounted for 4 percent or more of national activity in the construction sector (figure 4-2, table 4-2).
Computing the percent of construction sector activity as a percent of a state gross product (GSP), rather than as a share of GDP, also provides useful insights to U.S. production. Nationally, California, Texas, New York, and Florida lead in construction sector activity in 2015. However, construction was not the leading activity in these States and accounted for only a small share (less than 5.5 percent) of GSP. Construction accounted for the largest share of GSP in North Dakota (8.1 percent, or $4.5 billion). North Dakota, however, contributed less than 4 percent to national GDP related to construction (see Appendix A).
The construction sector was the third smallest user of transportation services in 2014 ($48.9 billion). The sector relies heavily on air, rail, truck, and water transportation services. Looking at the use of these four transportation services, the construction sector used 1.3 times as much in-house operations ($27.6 billion) as for-hire services ($20.8 billion) (figure 4-3).
The construction sector used $48.9 billion of transportation services in 2014. In 2014 the sector used:
- Almost exclusively truck transportation services (e.g., for hauling materials and equipment to a construction site), which accounted for 88.2 percent ($43,148 million) of all transportation services used by the sector.
- More in-house truck transportation operations ($27,368 million) than for-hire truck transportation services ($15,780 million), with in-house truck transportation operations accounting for almost two-thirds (55.9 percent) of all transportation services used.
- A modest amount of air, rail, and water transportation services, which collectively accounted for 10.7 percent ($5,248 million) of all the transportation services used by the sector. Almost all of air, rail, and water transportation services used by the sector were for-hire ($5,020 million) (figure 4-4).
The construction sector required slightly more transportation services in producing output than the average sector, albeit substantially less transportation services than the sector depending the most on transportation services in 2014. In 2014 the construction sector required 3.8¢ worth of transportation services to produce one dollar of output, while the most dependent sector (wholesale and retail trade) required 9.9¢ worth of transportation services to produce one dollar of output. The construction sector relied more on in-house transportation operations than for-hire transportation services, requiring 2.1¢ worth of in-house transportation services and 1.7¢ worth of for-hire transportation operations to produce one dollar of output (figure 4-5).
The overall transportation requirement for the construction sector (3.8¢) is relatively modest compared to other inputs. In 2014 transportation services were the third most important input, while manufactured products (e.g. nails, sheet metal, etc.) were the most important input. The construction sector required 21.2¢ worth of manufactured products to produce one dollar of output. (figure 4-6)
In 2015 the construction sector employed 209,990 transportation and material moving workers, accounting for 3.3 percent of its entire work force (figure 4-7). Transportation workers include motor vehicle operators, ship engineers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, etc. Material moving workers support transportation activities and include occupations such as cleaners of vehicles and ship loaders.
Transportation and material moving workers in the construction sector earned a median wage of $37,490 in 2015, while workers of all occupations in the construction sector earned a higher median wage ($43,340) (figure 4-8).
The construction sector employed the largest number of workers as heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (96,050), followed by light truck or delivery services drivers (14,780). Workers in these two occupations collectively accounted for 52.8 percent of the sector’s entire transportation and material moving workforce. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earned a slightly higher median wage ($38,320) than light truck or delivery services drivers ($33,050) (figure 4-8).
The 2002 Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS) is the most recent survey of vehicle ownership and use by industry. According to the 2002 VIUS, the construction industry operated, at 4.5 million, the largest number of trucks and accumulated the most truck miles (figure 4-9).
1 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industries at a Glance, , as of Sept. 1, 2015