Survey Finds Labor Shortages Are Increasing

Nearly three-fourths of construction firms across the country report they are having trouble finding qualified craft workers to fill key spots, according to the results of an industry-wide survey released by the Associated General Contractors of America, Arlington, Va. Association officials called for immigration- and education-reform measures to help avoid worker shortages.

Of the 74 percent of responding firms that are having a hard time finding qualified craft workers, the most frequently reported difficulties are in filling onsite construction jobs, like carpenters, equipment operators and laborers. Fifty-three percent are having a hard time filling professional positions, especially project supervisors, estimators and engineers.

Eighty-six percent of respondents said they expect it will remain difficult or get harder to find qualified craft workers; 72 percent say the market for professional positions will remain hard or get worse. Seventy-four percent of respondents report there are not enough qualified craft workers available to meet future demand while 49 percent said there weren’t enough construction professionals available.

To prepare future construction workers, 48 percent of responding firms are mentoring future craft workers; 38 percent are participating in career fairs; and 33 percent are supporting high school-level construction skills academies. In addition, 47 percent of responding firms are offering internships for construction professionals.

Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, says Congress needs to jettison arbitrary caps on construction workers that were included in immigration reform the Senate passed in 2013. “Lifting those restrictions will go a long way to ensuring construction jobs left vacant by domestic labor shortages go to workers who are in the country legally,” he says.

Sandherr urges elected and appointed officials to do more to ensure public-school students have an opportunity to participate in programs that teach skills, like construction. He adds skills-based programs offer students a more hands-on way to learn vital 21st century skills, such as math and science. Such programs also have been proven to reduce dropout rates and give students an opportunity to earn the higher pay and benefits that come with construction jobs.

Nearly 700 construction firms participated in the survey. View the national survey results and analysis, as well as results for 15 states with larger survey samples.