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C is for Carpenter

by Cameron Macht
April 2016

Carpenters are true jacks of all trades with many possessing a wide and varied skill set covering all aspects of building. As such, carpenters are the largest and most versatile construction occupation, working across residential, commercial, and industrial settings. The work can be physically demanding with data showing that carpenters have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average.

In addition to brawn, carpentry also requires brains. Carpenters use math every day and must be detail-oriented and able to follow a blueprint or instructions. They must also use problem-solving skills, however, as plans can change frequently. Since many are self-employed, carpenters may also need business skills to bid on new jobs, order and track inventory, and plan and coordinate work assignments.

More than 13,000 carpenters work at employer establishments in Minnesota, earning an average of $23.30 per hour or about $48,500 per year. Median hourly wages were about $2.00 per hour higher in Minnesota than nationwide. However, wages for carpenters vary by the region in which they work, with the highest pay offered in the Twin Cities and the lowest wages found in the Northwest (see Table 1).

Table 1
Minnesota Employment and Wages for Carpenters, 2015
Geography Estimated Employment Wage Percentiles
10th 25th Median 75th 90th
Minnesota 13,060 $13.89 $16.71 $21.74 $30.26 $35.63
Twin Cities Metro 5,940 $15.71 $19.28 $27.73 $33.85 $36.80
Northwest 2,070 $12.85 $14.34 $16.67 $18.98 $23.28
Central 1,410 $15.38 $17.42 $20.98 $26.19 $34.77
Northeast 890 $9.20 $17.42 $24.83 $28.71 $35.86
Southwest 840 $12.77 $15.69 $18.40 $23.84 $31.57
Southeast 730 $12.35 $15.09 $19.61 $25.55 $28.79
United States 617,060 $12.49 $15.61 $19.89 $27.14 $36.42
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics

About 90 percent of carpenters are employed in the Construction industry, with the other 10 percent spread across other industries. The highest wages were found in Educational Services while the lowest wages were in Manufacturing.

Most carpenters have at least a high school diploma or equivalent and then learn their trade through an apprenticeship program and on-the-job training. However, several 2-year technical schools in Minnesota also offer carpentry certificates. DEED's Graduate Employment Outcomes tool shows there were 386 graduates of carpentry programs in the state from 2012 to 2013, a 16 percent increase compared to 2009-2010 despite a decline in construction employment during that time. Wages also increased for new graduates, but remained well below median wages for carpenters already in the labor force as experience seems to be more valuable than education (see Table 2).

Table 2
Minnesota Graduate Employment Outcomes for CIP Code 46.02 -Carpenters, July 2012 - June 2013
Award Level Number of Graduates Median Hourly Wage Top Industry of Employment Top Region of Employment
1 Year 2 Years
All Awards 386 $14.03 $15.33 Construction Twin Cities
Source: DEED Graduate Employment Outcomes (GEO) tool

Blueprint for Expansion

DEED's Job Vacancy Survey shows that as construction activity has picked up demand for carpenters has returned to prerecession levels, but may take much longer to surpass hiring needs during the building boom of the early 2000s (see Figure 1). With 788 job vacancies in the fourth quarter of 2015, carpenters were the second most in-demand construction occupation behind construction equipment operators.

Figure 1

All but 1 percent of the openings were full-time, with a median wage offer of $19.25 which is well above the 10th and 25th percentiles typically paid to entry-level carpenters. Over 60 percent of the openings required one or more years of experience compared to just 1 percent requiring postsecondary education.

Improvements in the housing market and expansion in commercial and industrial buildings should lead to additional opportunities for skilled construction workers in the next decade. According to DEED's short-term projections, the state will need about 465 new carpenters in the next year based on 300 new jobs and about 165 replacement openings. Long-term, the state may need upwards of 3,700 carpenters between 2014 and 2024, as many of the jobs lost during the recession return and many current carpenters hang up their tool belts and retire or change careers (see Table 3).

Table 3
Minnesota Short-term and Long-term Employment Projections for Carpenters
Occupational Title Estimated Employment 4Q 2015 Projected Employment 4Q 2016 Percent Change 4Q 2015 - 4Q 2016 Numeric Change 4Q 2015 - 4Q 2016 Replacement Openings 4Q 2015 - 4Q 2016 Total Openings* 4Q 2015 - 4Q 2016
Carpenters 13,492 13,793 +2.2% +301 +162 +463
Occupational Title Estimated Employment 2014 Projected Employment 2024 Percent Change 2014-2024 Numeric Change 2014-2024 Replacement Openings 2014-2024 Total Openings* 2014-2024
Carpenters 19,727 21,153 +7.2% +1,426 +2,270 +3,700
* Total Openings: the sum of employment increases and net replacements.Source: DEED Employment Outlook

Breaking Stereotypes

Data from DEED's Quarterly Workforce Indicators shows that the age, race, and gender profile of workers in the residential building construction industry, which employs one in every five carpenters, is changing. The percentage of workers under 25 years of age was cut nearly in half over the past decade, while the percentage of workers aged 55 years and over nearly doubled.

While 80 percent of the workforce is male, the number of female workers increased more quickly coming out of the recession. And although 96 percent of workers were white, the percentage of workers of other races increased from 2005 to 2015. Holding 2.5 percent of jobs, Hispanics are the largest minority group working in residential building construction in Minnesota (see Table 4). Data show that a new and more diverse workforce pipeline is building up across the state.

Table 4
Minnesota Workforce Demographics in Residential Building Construction (NAICS 2361)
Age Group 2Q 2015 2Q 2005
Number Percent Number Percent
24 years & younger 1,208 11.1% 3,138 18.8%
25-54 years 7,740 70.8% 11,943 71.4%
55 years & older 1,981 18.1% 1,647 9.8%
Male 8,817 80.7% 13,405 80.1%
Female 2,112 19.3% 3,323 19.9%
Race and Origin
White Alone 10,498 96.1% 16,264 97.2%
Some Other Race 430 3.9% 463 2.8%
Hispanic or Latino 276 2.5% 322 1.9%
Source: DEED Quarterly Workforce Indicators
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