Topic:
WAGES; CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRIES;
Location:
WAGES;

OLR Research Report


September 7, 2006

 

2006-R-0479

COMPARING CONNECTICUT AND NEIGHBORING STATES'
PREVAILING WAGE RATES

By: John Moran, Principal Analyst

You asked for a comparison of the prevailing wage rates for public construction jobs in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

SUMMARY

State prevailing wage laws are intended to ensure wages and benefits commonly paid to construction workers in an area will be the minimum wages and benefits paid to the same kinds of workers on public construction projects.

This report compares the rates of seven common construction jobs in the four states. Although Connecticut is divided into different regions for prevailing wage purposes, most prevailing wage jobs pay the same statewide rate. Rhode Island also has a statewide rate, but the two larger states, New York and Massachusetts, have significant regional variations.

This report compares the parts of New York and Massachusetts that are closest to Connecticut. Connecticut is roughly in the middle of the group with statewide rates comparable to Rhode Island's statewide and Massachusetts' Worcester area rates.

Prevailing wage is generally broken into three broad groups: (1) residential, (2) building, and (3) heavy construction (which in Connecticut includes highway construction). This report compares the building rates of the four states, which is the rate that would apply to construction of public buildings including schools and various municipal buildings.

PREVAILING WAGE RATES

Comparison

As displayed in Table 1, New York's Westchester and Putnam Counties have the highest prevailing wage rates of the group and Massachusetts' Springfield area has the lowest. Connecticut is roughly in the middle of the group with statewide rates comparable to Rhode Island's statewide and Massachusetts' Worcester area rates (except Worcester's pay for bricklayers is considerably higher than Connecticut's).

High and low wage rates vary considerably across occupations and states. Consequently, whether the labor cost of a public construction, prevailing wage project would be more costly in Connecticut than, for example, Rhode Island, depends on the mix of jobs and occupations necessary to complete the work. For example, the Connecticut rates are higher for (1) electricians in Rhode Island and (2) ironworkers in Rhode Island and the Springfield area. But Connecticut's carpenter, plumber, laborer (general), and laborer (asbestos remover) rates are lower than Rhode Island or the Worcester area.

We chose seven common occupations that have similar descriptions for each state. Connecticut has 62 prevailing wage occupations in the building category; some are obscure (e.g., wellpoint operator) and others are described differently by each state thus making comparisons difficult. New York has 124 prevailing wage building occupations and Massachusetts has 91.

Benefits as Part of Prevailing Wages

Each of the four states has enacted their own prevailing wage laws. This is in addition to the federal law that applies to federally funded projects that cost $2,000 or more. Connecticut and Rhode Island use federally generated wage numbers for their rates. New York and Massachusetts calculate their own rates.

The prevailing wage in all of these states is an hourly wage paid to the worker plus fringe benefits (such as a pension and health insurance). If the employer does not provide benefits, the amount of the benefit must go to the worker as additional pay. Table 1 shows the wage rates with the wage and benefit combined.

The hourly benefit rate is often more than 50% of the required hourly wage. For example, the Connecticut bricklayer rate is $29.50 hourly pay plus $16.41 hourly benefits (for a total prevailing wage hourly cost of $45.91).

Table 1: Prevailing Wage Rates for Selected Occupations in Four States*

Job

State

 

CT

MA**

NY

RI

 

Statewide

Springfield area

Worcester area

Westchester County

Putnam County

Statewide

Bricklayer

$45.91

$46.85

$58.04

$55.66

$55.66

$45.70

Carpenter

41.01

39.63

46.97

57.88

57.88

44.19

Electrician

48.95

42.17

45.21

68.55

61.90

45.39

Ironworker

50.23

43.07

51.36

73.94

60.15

44.39

Plumber

47.28

45.71

48.84

59.04

59.04

50.72

Laborer - General

34.70

31.90

36.25

45.35

45.35

37.35

Laborer - Asbestos Remover

35.70

31.90

36.25

47.00

47.00

39.35

*All rates are hourly and combine wage and benefit. Example: Connecticut bricklayer rate is $29.50 hourly wage plus $16.41 hourly benefit.

**Massachusetts rates are set by the existing union rate in an area. Some rates will increase before the end of the year due to obligations in existing contracts. The next change will be Springfield ironworkers will increase from $43.07 to $44.07 an hour starting Sept. 16, 2006.

Sources: CT, MA, NY and RI Departments of Labor and U.S. Department of Labor and Government Printing Office

JM:dw