California's construction industry is sinking underground. That's the conclusion of a new study from the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable that found more than 143,900 jobs – or one out of six jobs –in California's $152 billion construction industry were part of the so-called underground economy in 2011. Of those, 104,100 jobs were unreported by employers and more than 39,000 employees were misclassified as independent contractors.
The study, underwritten by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, found the number of construction workers in the underground economy has skyrocketed 400-percent since 1972.
Researchers defined the underground or informal economy as workers who were not protected legally or socially in their jobs. Particularly vulnerable are immigrants, who made up 43-percent of the California construction labor force in 2012.
“Construction once provided livelihoods for many workers to live the Californian Dream,” lead researcher Yvonne Yen Liu said in a statement. “That dream has unfortunately turned into a nightmare as informality increases and many are pushed into contingent work. Construction is a low-road model of an industry sinking underground. Informality threatens to become the new normal. To get back on our feet, California needs to raise the floor wage so informal workers are paid a fair wage and enforce labor standards.”
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