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The Construction Labor Force Is Falling Short of Industry Demand

11/4/2013 | Construction Blog

Since the height of the recession, the construction industry workforce has been reduced by approximately 30%. The Construction Labor Market Analyzers’ 20/20 Foresight Report now projects a shortage of nearly 2 million skilled craft workers by 2017. An aging workforce, a plummeting pipeline of new workers, and an ever rising demand for personnel are seen as the causes.


Companies recovering from the recession now confront fears that all hope in the strengthening market will be crushed by an inability to fill an increasing number of much needed work orders. Nearly 75% of construction firms nationwide report that craft workers such as carpenters, equipment operators and laborers are not available in numbers sufficient to meet even current demands. Additionally, approximately 50% of construction firms report difficulty in hiring for professional positions, including project supervisors and engineers.

Looking more closely, the workforce shortage is caused by several factors. Many workers left the construction industry during the economic downturn and have moved on to other fields. Baby boomers in the field are now retiring. Parents and school officials tend to promote higher education or training in the information technology industry and discourage high-school aged children and young adults from exploring opportunities in the skilled labor field. Meanwhile, the currently under-staffed construction industry is growing and calling for even more workers. For example, there are approximately 5 million non-residential workers in the construction industry nationwide currently. But the demand for non-residential workers is expected to grow to approximately 6.7 million in the next several years.

Many construction related organizations and firms have undertaken a concerted and pro-active approach to developing the workforce by offering training programs, mentoring programs, career fairs, and lobbying to increase the availability of training opportunities in public schools and to lift the arbitrary caps placed on legal immigrant workers in the construction field during the recent immigration reform.

There is likely more than one answer. But if the construction industry ignores this problem, it does so at its own peril.