Location:
CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS; WAGES;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


October 26, 2010

 

2010-R-0432

PREVAILING WAGE RATES IN CONNECTICUT AND NEIGHBORING STATES 2010

By: Lee R. Hansen, Legislative Analyst II

You asked for a comparison of the prevailing wage rates for public construction jobs in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. This report updates OLR Report 2006-R-0479.

SUMMARY

By establishing a minimum pay rate for certain classes of workers on government projects, prevailing wage laws aim to keep government's use of low bid contracting from significantly reducing the market price of labor and disrupting the local economy. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island have each enacted their own prevailing wage laws, in addition to the federal law that applies to federally funded projects costing $2,000 or more. Connecticut's prevailing wage law is codified in CGS 31-53.

We compared the prevailing wage rates for seven common construction jobs in Connecticut, nearby areas of Massachusetts and New York, and all of Rhode Island. Connecticut rates are generally in the lower half of this group and consistently less than those paid in Worcester, Massachusetts and New York's Westchester and Putnam Counties. Omitting New York's rates, Connecticut's rates are generally in the middle range of the New England areas studied.

PREVAILING WAGE RATES

Connecticut and Rhode Island use the federally generated wage numbers for their rates, while New York and Massachusetts each calculate their own rates. In general, the U.S. Department of Labor determines the federal rate by surveying contractors about the wages paid on completed construction projects in a particular geographical area. If a majority of the workers in a job classification receive the same wage, that amount becomes the prevailing wage. In these instances, the rate usually comes from a collective bargaining agreement because union workers are most likely to receive the same exact hourly pay. If no single wage is received by a majority of the workers the Department of Labor uses a weighted average of rates to determine the wage.

The prevailing wage in all four 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. The hourly benefit rate is often more than 50% of the required hourly wage. For example, the Connecticut bricklayer rate is $32.43 hourly pay plus $21.19 hourly benefits (for a total prevailing wage hourly cost of $53.62).

Comparison

Despite some minor regional variations, most prevailing wage jobs in Connecticut pay the same rate throughout the state. Rhode Island also has a statewide rate, but New York and Massachusetts have significant regional variations. For purposes of comparison, we chose to include New York's Westchester and Putnam counties (which are adjacent to Connecticut), Springfield, Massachusetts, and Worcester, Massachusetts.

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.

Connecticut has 62 prevailing wage occupations in the building category (New York has 124 prevailing wage building occupations and Massachusetts has 91). Some are obscure (e.g., wellpoint operator) and

others are described differently by each state, thus making direct comparisons difficult. We chose seven common occupations that have similar descriptions for each state (bricklayer, carpenter, electrician, ironworker, plumber, general laborer, and asbestos removal laborer).

Table 1 shows the prevailing wage rates for the seven occupations in each of the six geographical areas. All rates are hourly and combine wages and benefits. The number in parentheses underneath the hourly rate indicates the rate's rank among the six geographical areas.

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

(as of 10/14/10)

Occupation

CT

(Statewide)

MA

(Springfield)

MA

(Worcester)

NY

(Westchester)

NY

(Putnam)

RI

(Statewide)

Bricklayer

$53.62

(5)

$56.60

(4)

$67.94

(1)

$64.98

(2)

$64.98

(2)

$53.20

(6)

Carpenter

47.60

(6)

48.15

(5)

55.36

(3)

65.55-82.60**

(1)

65.55-82.60**

(1)

52.33

(4)

Electrician

53.82-75.17***

(4)

49.29

(6)

54.74

(3)

82.59

(1)

64.43

(2)

52.26

(5)

Ironworker

59.58

(4)

52.26

(5)

60.64

(3)

77.32

(1)

68.70

(2)

49.92

(6)

Plumber

60.13

(4)

54.71

(6)

60.74

(3)

71.87

(1)

71.87

(1)

58.83

(5)

Laborer

(General)

40.00

(6)

40.59

(5)

44.75

(3)

53.30

(1)

53.30

(1)

41.10

(4)

Laborer

(Asbestos Removal)

41.00

(5)

40.59

(6)

44.75

(3)

54.95

(1)

54.95

(1)

43.10

(4)

*All rates are hourly and combine wages and benefits; number in parentheses indicates rank among six geographic areas

** Wages & benefits paid to carpenters in NY vary by job description (i.e., building carpenters earn $65.55, while floor coverers earn $82.60)

*** Wages & benefits paid to electricians in CT vary by location (electricians in most of the state earn between $53.82 and $56.16; only electricians in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, and New Canaan earn $75.17)

The prevailing wages paid in Connecticut are typically in the lower half among the areas surveyed. New York's Westchester and Putnam counties are usually the highest, with only Worcester bricklayers receiving higher wages than their New York counterparts. Worcester's rates also top the rates paid in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Springfield across the occupations, except for a relatively small segment of Connecticut electricians.

Disregarding the $75.17 paid to a relatively small number of Connecticut electricians and the $82.60 paid to a specific subset of Westchester carpenters, the prevailing wage paid in Connecticut averages roughly $16 per hour less than the prevailing wage for the same occupation in Westchester County, New York. If carpenters and electricians are removed from the equation, the Connecticut prevailing wages still average over $13 per hour less than those paid in Westchester.

Between Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the two areas of Massachusetts, prevailing wages in Connecticut are generally within the middle range of rates. Additionally, the Connecticut rate is typically within a few dollars of the average paid by the four areas, i.e., a Connecticut plumber's rate is $60.13, while the average rate for the four areas is $58.60.

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