SIC 1721

This classification includes special trade contractors primarily engaged in painting and paper hanging. Special trade contractors primarily engaged in roof painting are classified in SIC 1761: Roofing, Siding, and Sheet Metal Work.

NAICS Code(s)

235210 (Painting and Wall Covering Contractors)

Painting and paper hanging is a diverse, highly fragmented industry. In 2002, there were more than 468,000 individuals working in this industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The painting and paper hanging industry is worth an estimated $13 billion in income, as per the latest statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly all of this amount was for construction work. While most of the establishments in this industry are small, independent contracting companies, there are several large corporations. In 2003, leading companies included privately owned Brock Enterprises, of Beaumont, Texas, and Long Painting Company, of Seattle, Washington, which posted sales of roughly $400 million per year.

In most regions of the United States, individual contractors and contracting companies are available and handle most industrial and residential contracts. Contractors involved in painting and paper hanging are often represented by one of several industry groups or associations, such as the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America. The 600 top specialty contractors in the United States produced $612.2 million in revenues for the painting industry in 2001, according to ENR.

The painting and paper hanging industry is closely linked with overall trends in the construction industry, since the painting of new and remodeled buildings account for most of the industry's business. For that reason, the painting and paper hanging industry saw sustained growth in the early 2000s. Despite an economic slowdown in the United States, historically low interest rates kept housing starts growing steadily through the early 2000s. The number of single family housing starts reached 1.848 million in 2003, their highest level since 1978. Though expected to decline in 2004, starts still were expected to be at a high enough level to sustain growth in many construction industries, including painting and paper hanging. Consequently, the employment outlook in this industry was expected to grow by 14 percent between 2002 and 2012.

The type of work done by painting and paper hanging firms varies by the type of construction being done.

SIC 1721 Painting and Paper Hanging

For example, new detached single family houses accounted for more than one-quarter of all work done by this industry. New office buildings were the next largest category of work done, followed by industrial buildings and warehouses and commercial buildings. While the painting and paper hanging industry benefited from the record level of housing starts in the early 2000s, it also felt the pinch of reduced commercial and industrial construction.

Workers earned an average of $16.49 per hour in 2002. One negative trend in the late 1990s and early 2000s was the shortage of skilled laborers. The construction boom during that time period meant that painting and paper hanging firms had to compete more intensively for skilled labor and increase compensation for their employees. The shortage produced quality problems, increased prices, and stretched schedules for many firms.

Further Reading

1997 Census of Construction Industries. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Census, 2000.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1998-99 Occupational Outlook Handbook, 20 March 2000. Available from .

Total Housing Starts for 2003 Highest in 25 Years. National Association of Home Builders, 21 January 2004. Available from .

Tulacz, Gary. "The Top 600 Specialty Contractors," ENR. 8 October 2001. Available from .

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Career Guide to Industries: Construction. Washington, D.C.: 2003. Available from .

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition. Washington, DC:2004. Available from .

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