Overall Ranking

PLA Mandates

Prevailing Wage

Right to Work

Public-Private Partnerships

Workforce Development

Career & Technical Education

Job Growth Rate




  • Overall Ranking
  • PLA Mandates
  • Prevailing Wage
  • Right to Work
  • Public-Private Partnerships
  • Workforce Development
  • Career & Technical Education
  • Job Growth Rate

Overall ranking (1-51) is determined through a combined score of the seven graded criteria. Ties in combined score being broken by performance on ABC core issues, with secondary consideration given to additional graded criteria.  

A project labor agreement (PLA) is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with labor organizations that sets forth the terms and conditions of employment for a particular construction project. Government-mandated PLAs are costly special interest schemes that end open, fair and competitive bidding on contracts to build taxpayer-funded construction projects. They discourage merit shop contractors from bidding on taxpayer-funded construction contracts and increase costs between 12 percent and 18 percent, which results in fewer infrastructure improvements and reduced construction industry job creation.

Currently, 22 states have a statute or executive order ensuring government neutrality in contracting by prohibiting government-mandated PLAs on projects funded by taxpayers.

Prevailing wage laws are government-determined wage mandates with outdated job restrictions that do not match the needs of today’s competitive construction business environment. Prevailing wage requirements discourage many qualified small and minority-owned contractors from bidding on public projects. State governments’ complex and inefficient wage rate determinations and work restrictions make it nearly impossible for them to compete with better capitalized corporations. Studies have shown that state prevailing wage laws (also known as Little Davis-Bacon laws) can needlessly inflate construction costs.

Nineteen states do not have prevailing wage requirements on public projects.

Right to Work laws guarantee workers can seek employment without fearing they will be required to join (or pay) a union if they are hired. These laws simply allow workers who do not want to participate in collective bargaining to opt out of joining the union or paying dues or fees. If all or most of the members of a bargaining unit believe union representation will advance their interests, then nothing in a Right to Work law prohibits them from exercising their federally protected right to organize a union and collectively bargain with their employer.

Currently, 25 states have adopted Right to Work laws and some studies have suggested the economic growth in these states outpaces growth in states where workers are forced to join a union or pay a fee to organized labor as a condition of employment.

Public-private partnerships (P3s) allow public and private sector entities to enter into contracts in which both sectors share the risks and revenue of a project or class of projects. P3s are a tool in the procurement toolbox that can help alleviate budgetary issues and offer another route for financing and developing public projects, as well as improve the quality of services offered.

Thirty-seven states authorize P3s by statute, regulations or limited partnerships.

States can encourage high-quality training and/or certification of the construction workforce by financially incentivizing employers to train or retrain their workers through registered apprenticeship programs or other industry-recognized programs, or to hire workers that possess an industry-recognized credential or are graduates of an apprenticeship program.

In some states, business associations can benefit from financial incentives offered for workforce development and training programs. Incentives typically come in the form of grant funding or tax credits.

States allow varying levels of flexibility in high school curriculum standards to promote rigorous and relevant skilled trades and career and technical education (CTE) opportunities for career readiness. This includes allowing CTE coursework or on-the-job work experience to fulfill graduation requirements.

Some states go as far as offering a pathway to industry certification in a particular trade or designing a separate diploma program fully focused around career readiness and technical education.

The integration of CTE in high school standards and requirements helps ensure students are prepared for college and careers. In addition, these pathways are vital to meet the future manpower needs of the construction industry.

This data tracks the Compound Annual Growth Rate in construction from 2011 to 2015 using figures from the month of August. The job growth rate percentage gives perspective on how the job market is growing or contracting in real terms and can provide insight into where the job market may be heading in the future.

Overall RankingPLA MandatesPrevailing WageRight to WorkPublic-Private PartnershipsWorkforce DevelopmentCareer & Technical EducationJob Growth Rate
Wyoming 24 C F A D B C D
Alabama 14 A A A C F C D
Alaska 50 D F F D F D D
Arizona 1 A A A A B A D
Arkansas 19 A F A B B D D
California 32 D F F B D B B
Colorado 22 C A F C D B B
Connecticut 33 D F F B D A D
Delaware 31 C F F C D C D
District of Columbia 44 D F F A F B N/A
Florida 8 C A A A D B B
Georgia 9 A A A A F D D
Hawaii 42 D F F D D B C
Idaho 10 A A A D D C B
Illinois 47 F F F C D D D
Indiana 18 D A A C D A F
Iowa 13 B A A D B D B
Kansas 12 A A A D D D C
Kentucky 37 D F F D D B D
Louisiana 2 A A A A C A D
Maine 35 C F F D D C D
Maryland 41 D F F A D D D
Massachusetts 28 D F F C B B C
Michigan 20 A F A D D C C
Minnesota 43 D F F D F C D
Mississippi 16 A A A D F B F
Missouri 34 C F F C D C D
Montana 30 A F F D C D D
Nebraska 26 C F A D D D D
Nevada 17 A F A C D B B
New Hampshire 27 C A F D D D D
New Jersey 48 F F F C D D D
New Mexico 51 D F F D F D F
New York 49 D F F D F B D
North Carolina 5 A A A B F A D
North Dakota 4 A A A B D D A
Ohio 38 D F F C F A D
Oklahoma 7 A A A D C C C
Oregon 36 D F F C D D C
Pennsylvania 45 D F F C D D D
Rhode Island 46 D F F D D C F
South Carolina 6 A A A B D D D
South Dakota 15 A A A D D C D
Tennessee 23 A F A D D D D
Texas 21 C F A A D B C
Utah 11 A A A D D D C
Vermont 40 C F F D D B D
Virginia 3 A A A A C A D
Washington 39 D F F C D C B
West Virginia 29 A F F C D B F
Wisconsin 25 D F A C D A D


Building America: The Merit Shop Scorecard reviews and ranks state-specific information that is significant to the construction industry. The scorecard is a tool to identify states that are embracing the merit shop philosophy via legislation, policies, priorities and valuable programs, as well as highlight states where proactive and strategic improvements need to be executed to create an environment conducive to the industry’s needs. Rankings have been assigned primarily based on the core issues concerning merit shop construction, including state policies on Right to Work, prevailing wage and government-mandated project labor agreements.


Additional consideration has been given to a number of other factors that impact the industry, including state authorization or prohibition of public-private partnerships, availability of grants and incentives for employers that value training, and inclusion of career and technical education credits in high school requirements, among others. Other valuable and construction-relevant data has been provided separately on each state’s page, including information related to prompt pay requirements, safety figures, and a graph tracking the state-level unemployment rate in construction from month-to-month.

What Is the Merit Shop Philosophy?

The merit shop philosophy is the belief that people and companies succeed based on free enterprise principles within the free market system, which is characterized by open and fair competition and diverse participants. Those that adhere to the philosophy believe employees and employers have the right to determine wages and working conditions through either individual or collective bargaining, as they choose, within the boundaries of the law. They oppose violence, coercion, intimidation and the denial of the rights of employees and employers. Furthermore, they believe it is incumbent upon all branches of government to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and that government should award contracts based solely on merit to the lowest responsible bidder, regardless of labor affiliation. Lastly, the merit shop philosophy contends that the destiny of all Americans can be best served by cooperation, reconciliation, and following the tenants of free enterprise and a democratic government.


The Merit Shop Scorecard is a project by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), a national trade association representing nearly 21,000 chapter members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work, and deliver that work safely, ethically, profitably, and for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work.