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Labor Shortage Challenges Contractors

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

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At a time when the construction industry is seeing an influx in demand, many companies—including those in the building, infrastructure, highway, federal/heavy and utility fields—appear to be having a difficult time finding skilled workers to fill open positions.

In its new industry survey, the Associated General Contractors of America found that of the 1,358 survey respondents, 86 percent said they are having trouble finding qualified workers to fill key craft and salaried jobs.

Background photo: ITER Organization / Courtesy of AGC

In announcing the industry survey results Thursday (Sept. 10), association officials also issued a call for better education programs for the construction industry.

“Few firms across the country have been immune from growing labor shortages in the construction industry,” said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of AGC.

In announcing the survey results Thursday (Sept. 10), association officials also issued a call for “new career and technical school programs as well as other workforce measures to offset the labor shortages that are forcing firms to change how they operate and pose risks to workplace safety.”

“The sad fact is too few students are being exposed to construction careers or provided with the basic skills needed to prepare for such a career path,” Sandherr added.

The survey was conducted in July and August.

From Carpenters to Engineers

Seventy-nine percent of responding contractors are finding it challenging to fill one or more of the 21 hourly craft professional positions, particularly carpenters (73 percent of firms that employ carpenters report difficulty); sheet metal installers (65 percent); and concrete workers (63 percent), the report said.

Forty-nine percent of responding contractors report trouble finding qualified painters for open positions, according to the survey results.

In addition, 52 percent of companies are reporting difficulty in filling salaried professional positions, including project managers/supervisors (listed by 55 percent of firms that employ them); estimators (43 percent); and engineers (34 percent), noted AGC's chief economist Ken Simonson.

Competition, Pay and Safety

As labor shortages grow more severe, competition for workers is heating up, Simonson added.

He noted that 36 percent of companies report losing hourly craft professionals to other local construction firms, and 21 percent to other industries locally.


Nearly 50 percent of firms report difficulty finding qualified painters.

Thirteen percent of responding contractors report losing workers to construction firms in other locations.

Growing competition for workers is also prompting 56 percent of firms to increase base pay rates for hourly craft professionals.

Moreover, 43 percent of firms have increased their reliance on subcontractors because of tight labor conditions.

Worker shortages also appear to be impacting safety, Simonson added, with 15 percent of firms reporting an increase in injuries and illnesses because of worker shortages.

AGC’s Plan

Association officials have updated their Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: A Workforce Development Plan to address the worker shortage issue.

AGC’s plan outlines steps, such as increasing funding for vocational education and making it easier to establish construction-focused schools.

The plan also calls for comprehensive immigration reform and measures to make it easier to hire veterans.


Tagged categories: Associated General Contractors (AGC); Concrete; Construction; Craftsmanship; General contractors; Industry surveys; North America; Painters; Program/Project Management; Roofing contractors; Safety; Subcontractors; Worker training; Workers

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