In 2016, the average annual wage for crane operators was approximately $60k, $10k above the national average salary of $50k, according to the Census Bureau. Today, the national average wage for crane and tower operators is $79,692. However, 65% of operators make between $25k and $65k annually; the average is higher due to a relatively small pool of operators making over $120k per year. The states with the highest average salaries are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and California. The highest paying municipal region in the US, however, is located in Southern Los Angeles, surrounding the port of San Pedro, CA. In this area, the average salary ranges from $125k-145k annually. Interestingly, the wages amongst crane and tower operators are distributed more evenly compared to the overall US labor force, with a GINI coefficient of 0.29, lower than the national average of 0.48.
It is not a surprise that the construction industry employs the highest number of crane operators, with an estimated workforce measured at 18,600 people. This is almost double the second largest employer, iron and steel manufacturers, and miles above the third-place electric power industry (2,000 workers). However, it is ranked 5th among the highest paying industries, at an average of just above $70k annually. The petroleum industry takes the #1 spot, with average yearly salaries reaching almost $110k.
The crane and tower operator field is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reaching 50,000 workers by 2024. This growth rate, which is above the 7.4% national average for job growth will be sustained in large part by an increase in high rise construction
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