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Contractors Face Hiring Woes

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

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More than two-thirds of contractors in the United States are reporting difficulty filling hourly craft positions—which represent the bulk of the construction workforce—including painters and concrete workers, a new study says.

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.

bridge painter
Technology Publishing Co.

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, including painters and concrete 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
© iStock.com / 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; Labor; North America; Program/Project Management; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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