Slide in Construction Workforce Continues
As Demand For Building Projects Keeps Rising
Supply and demand for construction laborers continues to move in opposite directions, the Associated General Contractors said in a recent news release. The number of qualified workers with building trades experience is dropping and construction firms are having a hard time hiring employees, while the demand for building projects is accelerating.
Demand for construction projects remains high, but the pool of qualified workers continues to drop lower, the Associated General Contractors of America reports.
AGC officials have consistently and repeatedly stated their concerns over the issue of a labor shortage, and data for the month of September offered little relief.
The AGC said the number of unemployed workers with construction experience has dropped to its lowest level since 2000. Hiring continues to decline because of this, while more and more construction projects are coming into the pipeline.
"Growth in the construction workforce has been slowing throughout 2015, just at the time that construction spending has accelerated to a multi-year high, " Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC, said. "Contractors would love to hire more workers, but there aren't enough qualified craft workers or supervisors available. "
Almost 6.4 million people were working in the construction industry in September, but building firms hired a mere 8,000 new workers that month. Total employment in the building trades has increased only 3.3 percent on a year-to-year basis.
"The number of unemployed jobseekers in September who last worked in construction totaled 479,000, the lowest figure for September since 2000, " the AGC said. "The unemployment rate for such workers was 5.5 percent, the lowest September number since 2001. "
At the same time, growth in construction spending reached a nine-year high at 13.7 percent for the one-year period ending August 2015, the AGC said, citing U.S. Census Bureau data. The rate of increase was 2.7 percent during the year ending August 2014.
"The most likely explanation for these divergent trends is that the pool of unemployed workers with construction experience has evaporated, " Simonson said. "Overwhelmingly, contractors say they are having trouble finding workers to fill a variety of craft and supervisory positions. "
A survey compiled by the AGC recently released found 86 percent of construction firms reported having difficulty filling both craft and salaried positions. The problem is particularly acute when it comes to hiring carpenters.
"Across all 21 crafts covered by the survey, at least one-quarter of the respondents reported difficulty filling each craft, " the AGC said. "Among salaried positions, 55 percent reported having difficulty finding supervisors or project managers. "
One possible solution would be to encourage schools to offer more building trades programs, so students are inclined to pursue careers in the construction industry when they enter the work force.
"Too few school systems are providing students with opportunities to explore high-paying, in-demand careers like construction, " Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the AGC, said. "Unless federal, state and local officials give educators, employers and associations greater flexibility and resources to set up career and technical educational training programs, we are likely to see construction costs go up and schedules get delayed. "