Shortage of skilled labor is forcing US contractors to turn away work: report

61% of surveyed construction firms reported difficulty in finding workers

A construction laborer working on the site of a new residential building (Credit: Getty Images)
A construction laborer working on the site of a new residential building (Credit: Getty Images)

Faced with shortages in skilled labor, many construction contractors across the United States are being forced to turn work down.

According to a new survey cited by the Wall Street Journal, more than one-third of contractors said they’ve had to turn work down to keep up with project volume. Sixty-one percent are having difficulty finding workers in certain trades, including concrete, masonry, plumbing, interior finishes and electrical, according to the survey. Some industry professionals are concerned that the labor shortage will make it difficult to tackle President Trump’s plans to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure projects.

“We couldn’t absorb $1 trillion worth of brand new work,” Steve Jones, senior director of Dodge Data & Analytics, which partnered with USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the report. “We’re already strapped just dealing with the work we already have.”

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Part of the reason for the labor shortage is the high volume of construction. Construction spending rose 5.8 percent — to $359.5 billion —in the first few months of this year compared to the same period in 2016.

In New York City, the average number of construction workers soared to 146,200 last year, marking the first time employment in the city has exceeded 140,000 in at least four decades. Still, other reports have indicated that the skilled construction labor force is “overstretched.”  [WSJ] — Kathryn Brenzel