By Todd Burns
Thanks to a strengthened economy, commercial construction and development is at near-record levels across the United States. In fact, as of the fourth quarter of 2016, the volume of jobs, projects and other key industry indicators are all reaching cyclical highs. The bad news: the labor shortage continues to threaten the seemingly-endless stream of commercial construction starts. According to a recent survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, 69 percent of contractors have difficulty finding qualified craft workers to fill key spots.
Unemployment Falls, While Wages Rise
During the global financial crisis, many skilled construction workers left the industry due to lower construction rates, which has resulted in a labor pool that is 23 percent smaller today than it was in 2007. And this shortage doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. The dwindling pool continued to drive down unemployment among U.S. construction workers to 7.4 percent in December 2016 from 7.5 percent in December 2015. At the same time, the average hourly wage for construction workers hit $30.22 per hour, more than 2.3 percent higher than in December 2015. The resulting fierce competition for talent has left contractors feeling the heat, with some projects facing costly delays.