WASHINGTON Jan 21 U.S. construction companies
are gearing up to hire more workers this year, if only they can
A shortage of skilled workers is looming in the sector,
which lost 2.3 million jobs during the 2007-2009 recession and
has only recouped less than half a million jobs, catching
employers off guard and sowing fear among many.
According to an Associated General Contractors of America
(AGC) survey released on Tuesday, 86 percent of companies plan
to start hiring this year, up from 78 percent in 2013.
At the same time, 62 percent of firms are already
complaining they cannot fill key professional and craft worker
positions. The AGC represents 30,000 construction firms
throughout the nation.
"In particular, many firms report having a hard time finding
qualified workers to fill project manager or supervisor
positions, equipment operators, carpenters and laborers," AGC
Chief Executive Officer Stephen Sander told reporters.
The survey found that two-thirds of companies expect it will
either become harder or remain difficult to find qualified
construction professionals over the next 12 months.
In addition, 74 percent of the firms predict it will get
harder, or remain as hard, to find qualified construction craft
professionals this year.
"One potential reason for growing construction worker
shortages is that many contractors have a poor opinion of the
local pipeline for preparing new workers," said Sander.
During the Great Recession, construction workers who lost
their employment found jobs in sectors such as shale gas
exploration, as well as healthcare. Others were lost to
Sander said competition for the available construction
workers was heating up. The survey found that 52 percent of
firms reported losing workers to other construction companies.
As a result, companies are raising wages and improving
benefits to retain workers, the survey found.
"The pressures we are having is just keeping the workers in
the industry," said Rob Moore, president and CEO of Big-D
Corporation in Salt Lake City.
"When the market starts to come up and we start seeing more
projects become available, the fear for us is where are the
workers going to come from. The skilled workers that have moved
into these different market segments, can we get them back into
The shortage of skilled workers is also an issue for
manufacturing, which was also hard hit by the recession.
Much of the problem is blamed on retiring baby boomers and
the fact that construction and manufacturing remain unattractive
career paths for most students graduating from high school.
Strong growth is expected in construction this year, driven
largely by the private sector.
Public sector spending on construction is expected to
stabilize as belt-tightening in Washington and at both state and
local government level eases.
Just under three-quarters of firms plan to buy some kind of
construction equipment this year, while 86 percent of firms plan
to lease new equipment. At the beginning of 2013, only 64
percent of firms planned to purchase new construction equipment,
while 77 percent planned to lease new equipment.