US: According to an industry-wide survey that was released by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America, 70% of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce.
The association officials said that many firms are changing the way they operate, recruit and compensate, but cautioned that chronic labor shortages could have significant economic impacts absent greater investments in career and technical education.
“In the short-term, fewer firms will be able to bid on construction projects if they are concerned they will not have enough workers to meet demand,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer for the Associated General Contractors.
“Over the long-term, either construction firms will find a way to do more with fewer workers or public officials will take steps to encourage more people to pursue careers in construction.”
Craft worker shortages are the most severe in the West, where 75% of the contractors are having a hard time filling those positions; followed by the Midwest, where 72% are having a hard time finding craft workers; 70% in the South; and 63% in the Northeast.
The labor shortages come as demand for construction continues to grow. Sandherr noted that construction employment expanded in 258 out of 358 metro areas that the association tracks between July 2016 and July 2017, according to a new analysis of federal construction employment data the association also released today.
Growing demand for construction workers help in explain why 67% of the firms report continue to be hard, or get harder, to find hourly craft workers this year.
Tight labor market conditions are prompting firms to change the way they operate, recruit and compensate workers, Sandherr noted. Most firms report they are making a special effort to recruit and retain veterans (79%); women (70%) and African Americans (64%).
Meanwhile, half of construction firms report increasing base pay rates for craft workers because of the difficulty in filling positions. 20% have improved employee benefits for craft workers and 24% report that they are providing incentives and bonuses to attract workers.
46% of the firms also report they are doing more in-house training to cope with workforce shortages while 47% report that they are increasing overtime hours and 41% are increasing their use of subcontractors.
In addition, 22% report that they are increasing their use of labor-saving equipment, 11% are using offsite pre-fabrication and 7% are using virtual construction methods like Building Information Modeling (BIM).
“The ongoing labor drought continues to put pressure on the already high-risk, low-margin construction industry,” said Sarah Hodges, director of the construction business line at Autodesk, a leading 3D design, engineering and construction software firm. “As labor challenges continue to grow, technology will play an increasingly important role supporting the existing workforce while inspiring the next generation of industry professionals.”