Building Cleaning and Maintenance Services, NEC

SIC 7349

Industry report:

This classification covers establishments primarily engaged in furnishing building cleaning and maintenance services, not elsewhere classified, such as window cleaning, janitorial service, floor waxing, and office cleaning.

Industry Snapshot

The building cleaning and maintenance industry provides services to a wide range of clients, including private homes; multifamily residences, such as apartment buildings and housing projects; schools; libraries; museums; nursing homes; hospitals; government offices; hotels/motels and resorts; restaurants; churches and synagogues; community and senior citizen centers; airports; bus stations; railroad stations; marinas; and other commercial buildings and businesses.

In 2010, there were about 95,613 cleaning and maintenance businesses not elsewhere classified in the United States, according to Dun & Bradstreet's Industry Reports. The industry as a whole generated an estimated $27.3 billion in annual sales and employed 824,394 workers.

Organization and Structure

Service industries remained an important element of the American economy at the start of the twenty-first century. One of the fastest growing service industries included the cleaning and building maintenance business.

With changes in needs and technology, the old view of the janitor as someone who only swept out a basement has changed dramatically. While custodians or cleaners may still employ brooms, they also make use of a variety of other machines, tools, and skills to keep buildings clean and well maintained. For the most part, custodians and building maintenance employees work indoors, in heated and air-conditioned environments. Work shifts vary tremendously, and some establishments, such as hospitals, large hotels, or transportation companies may employ such personnel on a round-the-clock basis.

The types and sizes of cleaning and maintenance businesses range from the single-person enterprise to franchises and large, nationally recognized companies that employ thousands of people. Smaller companies tend to service residential dwellings primarily because of the fewer demands on resources (employees, skills, and time).

For the most part, larger companies service commercial buildings, schools, and apartment houses because larger numbers of employees with varied skills are needed to do the job and because fees are higher for such establishments. This facet of the industry has become highly organized. For example, more than 1,400 building service contractors belonged to a national organization, the Building Contractors Association.

The number of service companies grew in the early 2000s due to developments of increasingly efficient and economical ways to accomplish cleaning and maintenance tasks. Part of that efficiency results from the ways in which a contractor contracts its services with the specific need of a particular client in mind: individual assignment, crew assignment, specific cleaning assignment, and general assignments.

In individual assignment, one person is responsible for a specific area. That person must know how to do all the different kinds of cleaning required, as well as basic maintenance. In a crew assignment, a team is responsible for an area, usually larger than a single area. Among them, they have all the skills required for the proper cleaning and maintenance required.

Specific cleaning assignments are different in that each member of the team has specific skills for a particular area. The team as a whole performs a wide range of jobs. Finally, the general assignment jobs provide almost limitless variety. There may be enough work for one person or a whole team of people. The responsibilities, as well as how many people will be assigned, vary according to needs.

Current Conditions

Although the demand for cleaning companies declined during the economic recession of the late 2000s, the health care industry helped keep the commercial cleaning industry afloat. According to a 2010 report by IBISWorld, "The aging U.S. population has made outsourced cleaning services a necessity for many elderly Americans, as well as for elderly-care providers." The report also predicated that as the economy recovered, the larger cleaning companies would look for expansion outside of the United States, particularly China, where consumers tended to be more willing to pay for high-quality cleaning services.

Industry Leaders

One of the top companies in the industry by sales volume in 2010 was ABM Industries Inc. of New York City. Founded in 1909 by Morris Rosenberg, who invested $4.50 in a bucket, mop, sponge, broom, and brush, ABM and its divisions posted sales in 2009 of more than $3.4 billion. In addition to the usual janitorial services for owners of commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings, the company offered a wide range of services that included security services and maintenance of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. The company also operated more than 1,800 parking lots and garages, mainly at airports. Although the firm had previously also offered pest control services, it sold this division of its business to Terminix in 1991. In 2009 ABM Industries employed 96,000 people.

Founded in 1949, UNICCO Service Co. of Newton, Massachusetts, was another industry leader. The firm provided cleaning and other services to thousands of businesses in the United States and Canada through 18,000 employees.

Two other large cleaning and building maintenance companies in the country were franchise chains Jani-King International and The ServiceMaster Co. Jani-King had more than 12,000 franchised business units in 2009. ServiceMaster, in business since 1947, had $3.3 billion in 2009 sales. Both companies offer services that include residential and commercial cleaning services, disaster restoration, and specialized services such as window and carpet cleaning. In addition, ServiceMaster offers pest control and lawn care and provides management services to health care facilities, schools, and factories.

In 1986, ServiceMaster purchased Terminix International, one of the nation's largest pest control companies. At the time, the company owned 164 outlets and 150 franchises nationwide. Merry Maids, a home-based cleaning business founded in 1980, also came into the ServiceMaster fold, as did a Memphis-area home appliance maintenance and plumbing service with a client list of approximately 400. In 1990, ServiceMaster purchased two divisions of Waste Management, Inc., a pest control business and a lawn care service, further diversifying beyond its core building maintenance niche.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 4.1 million people were employed as building cleaning workers in 2008. Only about 7 percent were self-employed. The average hourly salary for janitors and building cleaners was $10.31, with those working for the government earning about $12.82 an hour. The BLS predicted the industry would experience a 5 percent growth rate between 2008 and 2018, as new building construction slowed. The most growth was expected in the health care sector.

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