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Construction execs optimistic about finding work, but not workers

Brittany De Lea

Construction executives see demand picking up across most markets next year and are looking to add to their teams.

However, not many firms are optimistic they will be able to find qualified talent.

According to a new report from the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate, which surveyed nearly 1,000 contractors, three-quarters of firms plan to increase headcount in 2020. More than 50 percent expect to expand by 10 percent or less, while 19 percent expect to increase headcount by as much as 25 percent – and 5 percent want to expand by more than 25 percent.

Yet, 81 percent of respondents said they are having a hard time filling salaried and hourly craft positions – up three percentage points from the same time last year. More than 65 percent expect it will be equally as hard – or potentially even more difficult – to find workers in 2020.

“Contractors are very optimistic about demand for construction in 2020,” Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer, said in a statement. “At the same time, many construction executives are troubled by labor shortages and the impacts those shortages are having on operations, training and safety programs, and bottom lines.”

US HOUSING CONSTRUCTION INCREASES 3.2% IN NOVEMBER 

HOUSING MARKET HOT, 2020 COULD BE BETTER

The problem, however, for some may not be a lack of available candidates but a lack of qualified candidates. Seventy-five percent of respondents said their biggest concern for the coming year was worker quality, followed by the worker shortage.

As a result of the labor shortages, firms are factoring higher prices into contract bids, while projects are taking longer to complete.

The good news for workers is that firms are still hoping to attract qualified candidates by increasing pay and benefits. More than half of respondents said they increased base pay rates more in 2019 when compared with 2018.

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Officials from the companies involved in conducting the survey said the government should enact commonsense immigration reform in order to allow more people to lawfully enter the country to address workforce shortages.

The market segments where the highest percentage of respondents expected an increase in the dollar volume of projects were water and sewage construction, bridge and highway, K-12 school, hospital construction and transportation.

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