Contractors, Unions Optimistic About Industry Growth, But Labor Shortages Remain

A new study based on survey responses from nearly 1,000 construction industry respondents revealed that most construction contractors, labor unions and project owners are optimistic about the industry's growth over the next few years, The Association of Union Constructors announced June 15.

 However, most members of the industry still believe the existing construction workforce is too small, with labor shortages remaining in most of the crafts.

 According to the report, only three of the 14 construction crafts are expected to experience growth in 2015, with the remaining crafts experiencing shortages of as much as 2.2 percent.

 A Year of Short Supply in 2014

When asked about the 2014 workforce, 41 percent of respondents told TAUC they experienced a small labor shortage and 11 percent experienced a large labor shortage. The report said 17 percent of respondents reported a surplus of workers in their areas.

 Among the crafts, boilermakers had the largest shortage of workers in 2014, the report said, followed by iron workers and carpenters.

 Sheet metal workers, teamsters and painters had a large surplus of workers in 2014, and electricians had neither a shortage nor a surplus of workers.

 Even though more than half of the respondents reported labor shortages in their areas in 2014, 72 percent still anticipate growth in construction and maintenance work in 2015.

 Future Growth Versus Small Workforce

According to the report, respondents believe growth could range between 3 percent and 10 percent, and continue for the next two to three years. The report said that union representatives are the most optimistic about growth, with construction project owners being the least optimistic.

 Growth is most likely to take place in the civil and commercial construction sectors, the report said.

Members of the construction industry are predicting that the sheet metal workers, teamsters and insulators will have a surplus of workers by the end of the year.

 However, the remaining construction crafts will continue to experience labor shortages, notably the boilermakers, carpenters and iron workers, respondents told TAUC.

 While industry representatives seem to be optimistic about future growth, 45 percent said that the workforce is too small and 20 percent said the workforce is “far too small.” With regard to apprenticeship classes, 43 percent said the class sizes are too small and 25 percent said the classes are far too small.

 A few contractors responding to the survey said that efforts should be taken to make construction work a more attractive career option for young people. One contractor stated that the industry's inability to train more apprentices while demand for new construction is low will have an effect on the industry's ability to supply the necessary labor when demand picks up.

A project owner added that labor forecasting should be more efficient, and contractors need to be more specific about the skill sets they need to complete work on construction projects.

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