- Some construction companies are so desperate for skilled trade workers that they are offering signing bonuses, a perk once reserved for management, according to Engineering News-Record.
- Bonuses for craft workers range from a few hundred dollars to $1,500, but a supervisor who has access to pools of available labor can earn a one-time payment of up to $3,000. However, that payday isn't likely to happen until the worker has been on the job for at least 60 days, a policy reflective of the industry's high turnover rate.
- Bonuses aren't seen as a cure-all, particularly because these incentives aren't indicative of a base-pay increase. Also, some contractors fear the possibility of a costly bidding war, and are concerned that construction companies heading up large projects, like the $10 billion Foxconn factory in Wisconsin, will be able to offer large signing bonuses to lure their workers away.
In April 2016, a Goldman Sachs report defied conventional wisdom about the construction labor shortage. The investment firm said construction wages had increased at a pace no greater than the overall economy and that hiring was strong, indicating that there really wasn't a shortage despite industry assertions otherwise.
It's true that contractors have been reluctant to increase base compensation, as many are operating on thin margins in order to stay competitive. However, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, construction firms have increased pay. The average construction hourly wage is more than 10% higher than all other non-farm industries, and a recent 3.5% uptick to $29.63 per hour is starting to draw more experienced workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. In the past year, in fact, the number of people with construction experience looking for work increased by 38,000.
At some point, however, even high wage increases will cease to draw workers if the available pool is limited. This problem can only be solved, according to some industry organizations, by attracting more women and minorities and by appealing to students in high school and middle school. Societal pressure is such that many young people who would be better-suited for high-paying careers in the construction trades are being steered toward traditional four-year college degrees.
There is also a reluctance on the part of those ages 18 to 25 to jump into a career perceived as physically tasking, so some construction companies are emphasizing the growing use of technology on the jobsite as well as the office.