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Labor Shortage Continues; Cost and Availability Reported as Biggest Issues

Jan 26, 2018

Construction industry, mid boom, can’t find enough skilled workers

By Patrick Sisson  

The country’s construction industry may be swamped with work, with spending on new projects peaking at $1 trillion in November. But all the demand, and dollars, in the world can’t seem to fix the industry’s persistent labor shortages.

The lack of enough skilled workers and a narrow talent pipeline has added extra hurdles, time, and costs to many current projects, according to builders, hindering the current boom time in the industry.

“The number one issue is the cost and availability of labor,” says Randy Strauss, owner of Strauss Construction in Amherst, Ohio, roughly 40 miles east of Cleveland.

The issue is a nationwide one. Contractors in areas such as Houston, which were battered by Hurricane Harvey last year, have struggled to staff up, and the National Association of Home Builders recently found that 82 percent of its members believe the cost and availability of labor are their biggest issues. In 2011, only 13 percent named labor costs as their biggest worry.

Even with tax reform and regulatory rollback increasing optimism—many firms predict more business and new hires in 2018, according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America—builders and developers are wondering where they’ll find more skilled labor. With the U.S adding roughly 210,000 new construction jobs in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and currently experiencing low unemployment, the industry’s growth keeps it from getting ahead of rising demand for workers.

“It’s like Groundhog Day,” says John Courson, President and CEO of the Home Builders Institute (HBI). “Nothing has changed since last year.”