Construction faces over half-a-million-worker shortage

Mar 1 5 pM



What You Need To Know

  • Construction needs more than half a million workers above its current pace of hiring in order to meet demand in 2022, according to an analysis released Wednesday by Associated Builders and Contractors. Predictive models from ABC indicate the industry needs 650,000 additional workers.
  • For every $1 billion in additional construction spending, construction gains 3,900 jobs, ABC found. As massive infrastructure spending enters the pipeline, the industry will have a lot of hardhats to fill.
  • Anirban Basu, chief economist for ABC, described the workforce shortage as the “most acute challenge” the industry faces, even in the face of sluggish spending growth. 

“After accounting for inflation, construction spending has likely fallen over the past 12 months,” Basu said in a release. “As outlays from the infrastructure bill increase, construction spending will expand, exacerbating the chasm between supply and demand for labor.”

An estimated 1.2 million construction workers will leave for other industries in 2022, ABC found, but an anticipated 1.3 million will offset that departure — leaving other industries for construction. Nevertheless, the age of the workforce raises concerns, as fewer young workers join and stay on jobsites, and veterans of the industry retire.

The number of workers ages 25-54 dropped 8% over the last decade, while the number of older workers has increased proportionally.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the industry’s average age of retirement is 61, and more than one in five construction workers are currently older than 55,” Basu said.

The number of entry-level laborers has increased 72.8% since 2011, Basu said, while the total number of workers has grown by less than 25%.

“The roughly 650,000 workers needed must quickly acquire specialized skills,” Basu said. “With many industries outside of construction also competing for increasingly scarce labor, the industry must take drastic steps to ensure future workforce demands are met.”

ABC CEO Michael Bellaman emphasized how construction workers will be essential to fulfill the projects associated with the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He railed against regulations attached by the Biden administration. 

Some of those regulations include President Joe Biden’s recent executive order mandating the use of project labor agreements on federally funded construction projects over $35 million.

“More regulations and less worker freedom make it harder to fill these jobs,” Bellaman said in a statement.

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