Oct 01 , 2019
Although many experts continue to say there’s a labor shortage affecting the construction industry, a percentage of pros don’t believe it.
A recent study from the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) revealed that 23 percent of construction pros said they don’t believe there is a labor shortage, while 65 percent said they do and the remaining 12 percent are unsure. The number of pros who do believe there is a lack of skilled jobsite workers is slightly higher than the study’s 2017 number, gaining increase from the group who were previously unsure—the percent who don’t believe there’s a shortage has remained unchanged.
No Such Thing as a Labor Shortage?
According to the same study, one-third of all projects are delayed by at least three weeks because of the lack of skilled jobsite workers. Still, some economic experts feel there is no such thing as a labor shortage in a free market. The Center for Immigration Studies says a “shortage implies that we have somehow run out of workers to fill essential jobs,” but with a U.S. population of 329 million, that seems unlikely; when countries with smaller labor forces like South Korea or Finland have thriving economies.
The Center reports that “as long as prices are free to adjust, the market will generally do a good job of matching supply with demand.” By this logic, there simply aren’t enough skilled jobsite workers willing to work at the wage employers want to pay. If employers increase wage along with additional labor demands, the supply of workers should naturally increase accordingly.
Construction Industry Still Recovering
On the other hand, economists say the construction labor shortage is very real and is a result of an industry that hasn’t fully recovered. According to Department of Labor estimates, about 2.3 million workers in the building industry lost their jobs during the financial crisis and Great Recession of the late 2000s.
Workers went on to find jobs in other industries, and companies have had a hard time getting them to return and finding replacements. The estimated number of job openings in the construction sector increased to 404,000 last April, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. This marks a significant increase over the 258,000 job openings estimated in April 2018, as well as a post-Great Recession high.
A Solution: Better Pay & Benefits
Whether the labor shortage is real or perceived, contractors may be able to better land the qualified workers they need by offering higher wages, expanded pre-apprenticeship programs, advanced training, flexible schedules and better benefits. They’re certainly strategies many companies feel complelled to explore. Case in point: Many construction firms across the U.S. now offer higher wages as an incentive for skilled workers to come on board and stay long-term.