Construction Laborers and Helpers

by Kate Williams

What Construction Laborers and Helpers Do

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

Work Environment

Most construction laborers and helpers typically work full time and do physically demanding work. Some work at great heights or outdoors in all weather conditions. Construction laborers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.

How to Become a Construction Laborer or Helper

Construction laborers and helpers learn their trade through on-the-job training. Formal education is not typically required.


The median annual wage for construction laborers and helpers was $36,000 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of construction laborers and helpers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.


Construction laborers and helpers typically do the following:

  • Clean and prepare construction sites by removing debris and possible hazards
  • Load or unload building materials to be used in construction
  • Build or take apart bracing, scaffolding, and temporary structures
  • Dig trenches, backfill holes, or compact earth to prepare for construction
  • Operate or tend equipment and machines used in construction
  • Follow construction plans and instructions from supervisors or more experienced workers
  • Assist craftworkers with their duties

Construction laborers and helpers work on almost all construction sites, performing a wide range of tasks varying in complexity from very easy to extremely difficult and hazardous.

Construction laborers, also referred to as construction craft laborers, perform a wide variety of construction-related activities during all phases of construction. Many laborers spend their time preparing and cleaning up construction sites, using tools such as shovels and brooms. Other workers, such as those on road crews, may specialize and learn to control traffic patterns and operate pavement breakers, jackhammers, earth tampers, or surveying equipment.

With special training, laborers may help transport and use explosives or run hydraulic boring machines to dig out tunnels. They may learn to use lasers to place pipes and to use computers to control robotic pipe cutters. They may become certified to remove asbestos, lead, or chemicals.

Helpers assist construction craftworkers, such as electricians and carpenters, with a variety of tasks. They may carry tools and materials or help set up equipment. For example, many helpers work with cement masons to move and set the forms that determine the shape of poured concrete. Many other helpers assist with taking apart equipment, cleaning up sites, and disposing of waste, as well as helping with any other needs of craftworkers.

Many construction trades have helpers who assist craftworkers. The following trades have associated helpers:

Construction laborers and helpers held about 1.6 million jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up construction laborers and helpers was distributed as follows:

Construction laborers 1,398,000
Helpers–electricians 81,100
Helpers–pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters 59,300
Helpers–carpenters 33,200
Helpers, construction trades, all other 28,800
Helpers–brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters 23,400
Helpers–painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons 11,000
Helpers–roofers 9,100

The largest employers of construction laborers and helpers were as follows:

Specialty trade contractors 34%
Self-employed workers 23
Construction of buildings 17
Heavy and civil engineering construction 15
Temporary help services 3

Most construction laborers and helpers perform physically demanding work. Some work at great heights or outdoors in all weather conditions; others may be required to work in tunnels. They must use earplugs around loud equipment and wear gloves, safety glasses, and other protective gear.

Injuries and Illnesses

Construction laborers and helpers, construction trades, all other have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. (“All other” titles represent occupations with a wide range of characteristics that do not fit into any of the other detailed occupations.)

Workers may experience cuts from materials and tools, fatal and nonfatal falls from ladders and scaffolding, and burns from chemicals or equipment. Some jobs expose workers to harmful materials, fumes, or odors, or to dangerous machinery. Workers may also experience muscle fatigue and injuries related to lifting and carrying heavy materials.

Work Schedules

Like many construction workers, most laborers and helpers work full time. Although they must sometimes stop work because of bad weather, they may work overtime to meet deadlines. Laborers and helpers on highway and bridge projects may need to work overnight to avoid causing major traffic disruptions. In some parts of the country, construction laborers and helpers may work only during certain seasons. For example, in northern climates, cold weather frequently disrupts construction activity in the winter.

Some construction laborers are self-employed. In contrast, very few helpers are self-employed.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of construction laborers and helpers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019


Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,330



Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $56,180

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of harmful substances such as asbestos, lead, and radioactive waste.

High school diploma or equivalent $43,900

Painters, Construction and Maintenance

Painters apply paint, stain, and coatings to walls and ceilings, buildings, large machinery and equipment, and bridges and other structures.

No formal educational credential $40,280

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair piping fixtures and systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $55,160

Material Moving Machine Operators

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects.

See How to Become One $36,770

Grounds maintenance workers

Grounds Maintenance Workers

Grounds maintenance workers ensure that the grounds of houses, businesses, and parks are attractive, orderly, and healthy.

See How to Become One $30,890

Flooring Installers and Tile and Marble Setters

Flooring installers and tile and marble setters lay and finish carpet, wood, vinyl, and tile.

No formal educational credential $42,050

Masonry Workers

Masonry workers use bricks, concrete and concrete blocks, and natural and manmade stones to build structures.

See How to Become One $46,500

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities for construction laborers and helpers, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local construction contractors or firms that employ laborers, or local union-management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about education programs for laborers, visit

Laborers’ International Union of North America



For career videos on construction laborers and helpers, visit

Construction laborers

Helpers – brickmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters


Construction Laborers

Helpers, Construction Trades, All Other

Helpers-Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters



Helpers-Painters, Paperhangers, Plasterers, and Stucco Masons

Helpers-Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Construction Laborers and Helpers,
at (visited ).

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