After years of craft worker shortages, the national construction industry at last saw a levelling off of the problem in the early pre-COVID-19 months of this year.
According to an extensive industry survey just released by the Arlington-based Association of Union Constructors, the number of responding construction companies reporting a craft workers shortage had declined as of the end of 2019.
At the same time, respondents in the 2020 Union Craft Labor Supply Study said the percentage of needed craft workers in their firms increased, with the most significant upward numbers seen in the commercial and industrial sectors.
Put another way, according to the survey, the change in craft labor shortages as of the early part of this year had shifted from a “growing shortage to a stable shortage.”
Regionally, the survey showed that the shortage of craft workers was greatest in the Southwestern states, with 35 percent of firms reporting a lack of such workers; followed by the Northwest, with 31 percent recording shortages; and the South Central states at 30 percent.
The smallest craft worker shortages were seen in New England, at 20 percent.
The early 2020 survey also showed just how vibrant the building economy was, with 78 percent of responding firms reporting project growth, a number coming on the heels of on an equally large 76 percent from the year before.
The growth numbers were particularly high in the civil and commercial/institutional sectors, where 87 percent and 99 percent of firms respectively reported project increases.
In a press release from the Association of Union Constructors, the impact of COVID-19 is described as “upending conventional wisdom and compelling contractors, labor representatives, and owner-clients to deal with a dramatically altered business landscape.”
But while the group’s annual survey predates by weeks the COVID-19 outbreak, the release added: “Knowing which areas of the country were experiencing labor shortages or surpluses pre-COVID-19 will be especially helpful in gauging where to allocate scarce resources” in the post-coronavirus recovery process.
By Garry Boulard
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