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The Shortage of Skilled Construction Labor is Worse than You Think

Construction Market Update:  One Step Forward, Five Steps Back

“Construction is ground zero in the worker shortage,” the Wall Street Journal editorial page declared this spring. Not given to hyperbole, the Journal colorfully describes the pain building owners and contractors face with finding sufficient numbers of workers to build their projects.

Construction employment is up, but not enough to meet the demand. AGC reports that construction employment increased in 245 out of 358 US metro areas from May 2016 to May 2017, while many contractors “struggle” with labor shortages. “Finding any qualified workers will likely become even harder with low unemployment throughout the economy,” says AGC chief economist Ken Simonson in the association’s most recent labor report.

Of the reams of statistics showing the problem’s severity, one, in particular, stands out for us: Only one skilled construction worker enters the work force for every five who retire, reports the Memphis Daily News.

"Many firms are opting to invest more in training, find ways to become more efficient or use new techniques like off-site prefabrication or robotics to reduce labor needs." AGC's Ken Simonson

Between aging workers and people leaving the industry for other jobs, you can expect this problem to continue for many years. In our travels around the country, we hear the horror stories of project schedules stretching out by months or years because there aren’t enough people to build them.

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