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Contractors: Qualified Workers Scarce

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

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Contractors throughout the United States are having a tough time finding qualified craft workers, leading to a recent decrease in employment in the construction industry, a new survey suggests.

The Associated General Contractors of America said Friday (Sept. 2) that newly released workforce figures showing a 6,000-job drop from July to August were likely due to a shortage of qualified skilled workers and not to a lack of demand.

The industry group backed that claim up with the results of its 2016 Workforce Survey, which gathered opinions from 1,459 member contractors this summer.

House construction site
© / stevecoleimages

The Associated General Contractors of America said a 6,000-job drop from July to August is likely due not to a lack of demand, but to a shortage of qualified skilled workers.

“A variety of indicators suggest contractors would be adding to headcount if they could find qualified workers,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist.

Craft Workers Wanted

According to the survey, 69 percent of respondents reported having trouble filling some hourly craft positions. Only 8 percent said they had no trouble filling positions, and 9 percent said they had no openings to fill.

Contractors said they had some trouble filling hourly office positions (15 percent), salaried office positions (33 percent) and salaried field positions (38 percent), but not at nearly the level of the craft worker shortage.

Carpenters are most in demand, according to the survey, with 60 percent of respondents saying they had trouble filling those jobs. Close behind were electricians, roofers, plumbers and concrete workers. Further down the list, 39 percent of contractors said they had trouble filling painter positions.

Foreman with apprentices
© / monkeybusinessimages

ACG's workforce development suggestions include free technical school offerings for high school students and more funding for apprenticeship programs.

More than 40 percent of those responding said they felt it would continue to be hard to find qualified craft workers over the next year, and 21 percent predicted it would become even harder, while only 4 percent felt that it will become easier to hire in the next 12 months.

Raising Wages to Attract Workers

AGC’s numbers indicate that it’s an employee’s market when it comes to craft jobs; 48 percent of respondents said they had increased base pay rates in the past year in order to attract craft workers.

Another 10 percent said they were considering pay increases or upgraded benefits in the near future.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its monthly Employment Situation report Friday (Sept. 2), revealing the 6,000-job decline for the construction industry for the month. Construction employment had been up about 11,000 jobs in July. Numbers for construction jobs are actually up about 4,000 from prior-year figures, however.

Workforce Development Plans

Earlier this year, ACG released its Workforce Development Plan, which suggests strategies government officials might take to improve training and recruitment in the construction industry.

Suggestions include free technical school offerings for high school students; more funding for apprenticeship programs; increased training for veterans; and immigration reform that would open a pathway for undocumented workers to attain legal status and join the workforce in the long term.  

“While contractors in many parts of the country are eager to hire new workers, they are having a hard time finding qualified candidates,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s CEO. “The best way to ensure continued economic growth is to enact measures to attract more young people into high-paying construction jobs.”


Tagged categories: Associated General Contractors (AGC); Construction; Contractors; Good Technical Practice; Labor; North America; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/7/2016, 10:36 AM)

I appreciate the link to the actual BLS statistics this time. Which still show that Construction has one of the highest unemployment rates among all sectors.

Comment from jim dolan, (9/7/2016, 11:50 AM)

The problem as I have experienced it is that trying to find young employees (30 and under) is almost impossible. No work ethic, no common sense, no ability to learn. 20 years ago this wasn't the case. It appears our school are supplying us with kids that a expert at finding Pokeman and able to do nothing else!

Comment from M. Halliwell, (9/8/2016, 10:59 AM)

Tom and Jim, I'm not surprised. There has been a major push in the last couple decades to get kids into university, rather than the trades. There has also been a lot (not all, but a good number) of youth entering the workforce without much of a work ethic and without much drive to succeed, but with a sense of entitlement that the world is to be handed to them on a platter. Makes for a sorry state of affairs when it comes to construction that will only get worse as more of the "old timers" retire.

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