Plumbers are among the highest paid workers in the construction industry. According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2008 there were about 555,900 jobs in the plumbing sector. In 2008, most plumbers -- 56 percent -- worked in new constructions, repairs and maintenance jobs, while the rest worked for government agencies as well as industrial and commercial employers.
A large percentage of plumber-related professions are associated with a union. In 2008, the BLS reported 31 percent of plumbers belonged to a union. Unionized plumbers can negotiate using collective bargaining to improve the terms of their contracts. The largest unions are the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing Industry of the United States and Canada.
The median hourly wages for plumbers in May 2008 was $21.94, according to the BLS. The middle 50 percent of plumbers earned between $16.63 and $29.66, while the highest-earning 10 percent of the workforce made $37.93 or more an hour. The bottom 10 percent of plumbers were paid $13.22 or less.
Salaries by State
The average wages for plumbers and related professions widely varies from one region to another. For instance in New York, the annual average salary for a plumber, according to a 2010 survey by the U.S. Department of Labor, was $60,160, while in California it was $56,330 and in Illinois it was $66,200.
Salaries by Industry
The industry where a plumber works also determines the salary and benefits he or she will receive. According to a 2008 report by the BLS, the best paid plumbers are in the natural gas distribution sector -- with an average of $26.27 an hour -- and the worst paid are local government plumbers -- with an hourly average of $20.65.