According to a new report from Associated Builders and Contractors, the construction industry—already short on workers before the pandemic—needs to hire 430,000 more laborers in 2021 for a total of 1,000,000 before the end of 2022.
Construction initially shut down during the pandemic, but the government reopened it, citing it as essential. The industry lost many workers in transition. Although construction companies rehired 80% of them, the industry shows a 238,000-deficit compared to pre-pandemic levels.
"We're losing more people than we're bringing into the industry," said Matthew Schimenti, owner of Schimenti Construction Company, in a CNN report. "People made decisions in their lives to leave the region and the industry [during the pandemic]. It was like putting a puzzle back together to restart where we literally called a timeout."
He's raised entry-level wages by 40% to recruit new hires. "I was offering $18-$22 an hour, and I got no applications. I increased it to $23, and I got none. I increased it to $25, and they're starting to trickle in right now," said Messer. "It was a dramatic increase, but in order to grow the business, I need technicians."
Michael Bellaman, President of Associated Builders and Contractors, argues that income shouldn't be a stumbling block because the pay is so much better than the national average--$18.23 in the restaurant and hotel industries versus $32.86 in construction. "You can earn a great living while you learn. If you have the desire to learn multiple crafts, we'll teach you multiple crafts. Our members invested $1.3 billion last year in upskilling their existing workforce."
Bellaman cites two problems; one, shop classes, once required, are often not even offered at schools; two, the aging workforce averages at 43.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average monthly turnover in construction has been at 5.3% over the last decade, compared to the average of 3.6% for all industries.
If construction companies and contractors can't find ways to entice new talent into the industry, the exploding costs of construction will continue to rise.
"We want to go out to every area where we can and attract top talent. Once we get them into the industry, we're educating and upskilling," Bellaman said.
Even with increased wages and on-the-job upskilling, construction companies continue to find difficulty in replacing the pre-pandemic labor force; this could mean increased construction costs.