Concrete trades near top in AGC survey tracking widespread labor shortages

Nearly 90 percent of 1,350-plus respondents to an industry-wide Associated General Contractors of America survey, conducted at peak season, report trouble finding qualified craft workers to fill key spots as construction demand continues to rebound in many markets. Seventy-nine percent of responding firms nationwide cite difficulty filling one or more of 21 hourly craft professional positions, particularly carpenters (73 percent of firms that employ carpenters report difficulty), followed by sheet metal installers (65 percent) and concrete workers (63 percent).

Association officials call for new career and technical school programs, as well as other workforce measures to offset the labor shortages forcing firms to change how they operate and posing workplace safety risks. “Few firms across the country have been immune from growing labor shortages in the construction industry,” says AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr. “The sad fact is too few students are being exposed to construction careers or provided with the basic skills needed to prepare for such a career path.”
Of 1,358 survey respondents, 86 percent said they are having difficulty filling hourly craft or salaried professional positions. In addition, 52 percent are having a hard time filling salaried professional positions, especially project managers/supervisors (listed by 55 percent of firms that employ them), estimators (43 percent) and engineers (34 percent), notes AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson. As labor shortages grow more severe, competition for workers is heating up, he adds, noting that 36 percent of survey respondents report losing hourly craft professionals to other local construction firms, and 21 percent to other industries.

Growing competition for workers is prompting 56 percent of firms to increase base pay rates for hourly craft professionals, while 43 percent of respondents have increased their reliance on subcontractors because of tight labor conditions. The qualified trades pool also appears to be impacting safety, Simonson observes, with 15 percent of firms reporting an increase in injuries and illnesses because of worker shortages.


A study from management consultant Booz Allen Hamilton on behalf of the U.S. Green Building Council finds the green sector outpacing overall construction growth, employment climbing from 2.3 million jobs this year to a projected 3.3 million in 2018, and contributing more than $130 billion in income labor. The 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study sees green practice accounting for more than one-third the entire construction sector and generating $190 billion in labor earnings by 2018. The industry’s direct contribution to U.S. Gross Domestic Product is also expected to surpass $300 billion over the next three years.

“Green building is playing a massive role in the U.S. construction sector, the clean and efficient energy sector and the economy as a whole,” says USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi.  “More than 2.3 million U.S. workers are taking home $134 billion annually in large part because of green building programs like LEED.