This industry classification covers special trade contractors primarily engaged in plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and similar work. Sheet metal work performed by plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors in conjunction with the installation of plumbing, heating, and air conditioning equipment is included here, but roofing and sheet metal work contractors are classified in SIC 1761: Roofing, Siding, and Sheet Metal Work. Special trade contractors primarily engaged in electrical work are classified in SIC 1731: Electrical Work.
Plumbing, Heating and Air-Conditioning
The U.S. heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry employed about 249,000 workers in 2002, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Roughly 50 percent of these individuals worked for heating and cooling contractors, and roughly 15 percent were self-employed. Plumbers accounted for nearly 550,000 jobs in 2002. Average hourly earnings for HVAC mechanics and installers were $16.78 in 2002, with a yearly wage of $34,902. Plumbers earned an average of $13.70 per hour, or $28,475 per year, in 2002. Generally, apprentices earned half the wage paid to their more experienced counterparts.
The plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning industry was benefiting from the growing U.S. housing market in the early 2000s. Despite a weak economy, housing construction continued its record growth in response to low interest rates. There were approximately 1.51 million building permits issued for single family housing in 2003 and 315,000 building permits issued for multi-family units. This was vital for the plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning industry, since more than one-quarter of its construction work was done on detached single-family houses in the early 2000s. Industrial buildings accounted for another 15 percent of its work, followed by office buildings and other commercial buildings at roughly 10 percent each. While sales of industrial and commercial units waned as construction in those sectors slowed in the early 2000s, the booming home construction market pushed shipments of central air-conditioning units and heat pumps to 6.7 million in 2002 and slightly higher yet in 2003. However, the industry did not remain immune to the effects of the recession. According to a January 2004 issue of Appliance, "It's been a difficult few years for the HVAC/R industry, despite the welcome new...