- The construction industry’s outlook for labor is bleak. In order to meet demand, contractors will need to hire an estimated 546,000 workers in 2023, and that’s in addition to the industry’s normal pace of hiring, according to a new analysis by Associated Builders and Contractors.
- In 2022, the industry averaged more than 390,000 job openings per month, the highest level on record. Construction’s unemployment rate of 4.6% for 2022 was the second lowest ever, indicating there are few construction workers seeking jobs, and therefore the pool to fill demand is shallow.
- ABC predicts demand for labor to increase by 3,620 new jobs for every $1 billion in new construction spending, on top of the current, above-average job openings.
The problem with the high demand is not just the large shortage of labor, but a skill shortage, said Anirban Basu, ABC’s chief economist in the release. The struggle to hire and retain workers is especially dire, as the workforce increasingly reaches retirement age. Few younger workers join the workforce, and when they do, they are less experienced and therefore less efficient.
“With nearly one in four construction workers older than 55, retirements will continue to whittle away at the construction workforce,” said Basu in the release. “Many of these older construction workers are also the most productive, refining their skills over time. The number of construction laborers, the most entry-level occupational title, has accounted for nearly 4 out of every 10 new construction workers since 2012.”
At the same time, Basu said, the number of workers with licensed skills have grown at a much slower pace, or, in the case of jobs like carpenters, actually declined in the last decade.
Demand and funding for megaprojects such as chip manufacturing plants, clean energy facilities and infrastructure will continue to make the problem worse — though construction is seeing money pouring into projects, it means more work to find the people to build them. And it won’t get much easier.
ABC predicts that in 2024, the industry will need to hire 324,000 new workers on top of its normal pacing, and that assumes construction spending slows significantly.
Correction: The headline of this story has been updated to more accurately reflect the number of workers needed to fill demand.