New Data Breaks Down Worker Shortages
A recent survey conducted by Autodesk and Associated General Contractors indicates that 80 percent of contractors are reporting difficulty filling hourly craft positions, which compose the bulk of the construction workforce. The shortage may also have a negative impact on future economic growth if it is not addressed.
Three of four U.S. regions surveyed reported that they added construction jobs within the past year. Craft worker shortages were reported in all four regions.
With more than 2,500 respondents from all across the country, the survey indicated that 81 percent of contractors in the West and South are reporting difficulty filling these hourly positions, which runs close to the 80 percent rate found in the Midwest and 77 percent rate in the Northeast.
“Labor shortages in the construction industry remain significant and widespread,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “The best way to encourage continued economic growth, make it easier to rebuild aging infrastructure and place more young adults into high-paying careers is to address construction workforce shortages.”
According to Simonson, between July 2017 and July 2018, construction employment expanded in 281 out of 358 metro areas. On a national level, 33 percent of respondents indicated that it will continue to be hard to hire the staff needed, 48 percent anticipated that difficulty would continue to increase and 17 percent reported no change. Only 1 percent reported that it would continue to be easy to hire, with the same amount saying future hiring will be easier.
Simonson noted that labor market conditions are prompting firms to change how they recruit and compensate workers: 62 percent of construction firms have increased base pay rate for hourly craft workers, 24 percent have improved employee benefits and 25 percent are using incentives and bonuses to attract workers.
“With a rise in the share of firms having trouble finding skilled craft workers, it’s evident that we need to reskill the future workforce,” said Sarah Hodges, senior director for the construction business line at Autodesk.
“Technology can help bridge this gap, and more firms are bringing training in-house to implement digital strategies such as building information modeling, or BIM, to ease staffing challenges and train the next generation of industry professionals.”
Additionally, 25 percent of respondents reported an increase in use of labor-saving equipment, with 25 percent also reporting an increase in their use of virtual construction methods such as BIM. Other industry response includes 47 percent of firms putting higher prices on their bids, and 44 percent indicating that projects currently underway cost more due to labor shortages. The trend of negative impacts on projects continues into 46 percent reporting that projects are taking longer to complete than originally scheduled, and 27 percent accounting for workforce shortages by extending project timelines.
The AGC has also released a new Workforce Development Plan that provides information to federal officials about what the government can do to train the future workforce, which includes a suggestion to double the funding for training over five years and to allow more skilled laborers to enter the country.