With high business failure rates, long payment delays, safety risks, and complex regulatory requirements, U.S. construction companies operate in a challenging environment. But every city is not created equally; location makes a big difference in a construction company’s opportunity for success.

In a review of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, Levelset compared cities on a variety of construction-related factors, including starts, employment, safety, salaries, weather, and lien security. These 10 cities won top honors as the best places for construction businesses and laborers.

  1. Seattle
  2. Salt Lake City
  3. Boston
  4. Phoenix
  5. Las Vegas
  6. Sacramento
  7. St. Louis
  8. Houston
  9. Austin
  10. Orlando

Seattle was named as the top spot as the best U.S. city for construction, winning the safety category and earning big investments in construction starts. The city had just 0.05 fatalities per 1,000 construction laborers over the past three years. Seattle has also seen big investments in the building sector, with $3,535 in construction starts per capita in 2019.

Salt Lake City came in at No. 2 on the list, thanks in part to Utah’s strong lien protection for contractors and suppliers, and an annual average of 222 days of sunshine. The city was also second overall for construction employment, with nearly 4.5 construction workers per 1,000 residents.

In third place, Boston also earned a stellar safety rating, with just 1 OSHA-reported fatality since 2017, an average of 0.07 per 1,000 laborers. At an average of $56,790, the city’s construction laborers also enjoy some of the highest salaries in the country, No. 14 overall after adjusting for cost of living.

Construction starts

The value of new residential and commercial construction projects started gives a strong indication of investment in the industry, and economic optimism. These were the top five cities for construction starts (per capita value):

  1. Nashville, Tennessee ($4,754)
  2. Austin, Texas ($4,651)
  3. Raleigh, North Carolina ($4,403)
  4. Jacksonville, Florida ($3,976)
  5. Orlando, Florida ($3,951)

Construction labor

High labor numbers indicate a strong job market, which is good for both laborers and construction businesses. These cities took the top five spots (per 1,000 residents):

  1. Houston (4.6)
  2. Salt Lake City (4.5)
  3. Seattle (4.4)
  4. Pittsburgh (4.33)
  5. Orlando, Florida (4.30)

Construction salaries

High salaries and wages are another indicator of a competitive job market and highly skilled workforce. These were the top five cities for construction manager and laborer salaries, after adjusting for inflation (unadjusted salary):


  1. Charlotte, North Carolina/South Carolina ($117,620)
  2. St Louis ($113,770)
  3. Columbus, Ohio ($107,420)
  4. Milwaukee ($118,560)
  5. New Orleans ($107,960)


  1. St. Louis ($54,820)
  2. Chicago ($64,870)
  3. Columbus, Ohio ($47,890)
  4. Minneapolis ($57,100)
  5. Cleveland ($49,890)


Construction is perpetually among the most dangerous industries. In a review of OSHA fatality reports from 2017-20, these cities were the safest for construction workers (deaths per 1,000 laborers):

  1. Seattle (0.057)
  2. Boston (0.069)
  3. Buffalo, New York (0.268)
  4. Pittsburgh (0.497)
  5. Los Angeles (0.501)


Sunny weather doesn’t just make the jobsite more comfortable, it allows construction businesses to complete projects faster and can reduce the likelihood of weather-related delays and disputes. Unsurprisingly, cities in western states rose to the top in this category (days of sunshine):

  1. Phoenix (301)
  2. Las Vegas (294)
  3. Los Angeles (284)
  4. Sacramento, California (269)
  5. San Diego (266)

Lien security

Every state has mechanics lien laws that give contractors and suppliers protection against non-payment, but these laws vary greatly in their power and complexity. Weak legislation erodes construction business rights, and complicated requirements can dissuade construction businesses from protecting their payments. Here are the five cities with the strongest mechanics lien protection:

  1. Salt Lake City
  2. Phoenix
  3. Las Vegas
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Sacramento, California