Constructor - September/October 2015 - (Page 33)

SIMONSON SAYS Construction Work Increases, Along with Worker Availability Worries BY KEN SIMONSON AGC CHIEF ECONOMIST CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY HAS BEEN grow- ing recently in many market segments and most parts of the country, and the outlook is generally positive for the remainder of 2015 and beyond. However, many contractors are scrambling to find enough qualified workers to complete projects. Total construction spending in the first five months of 2015 topped spending in the same period of 2014 by 8 percent, led by a 13 percent advance in private nonresidential spending, the Census Bureau reported in July. Private residential spending (new single- and multifamily construction, plus improvements - additions and renovations - to existing homes) climbed 8 percent. Public construction spending grew 3 percent. There are a lot more projects in the pipeline or just breaking ground that will keep contractors busy for months to come. The Federal Reserve's mid-July "Beige Book" survey of business conditions by region found a steady or increased level of nonresidential construction activity in eight of the 12 districts, while "multifamily construction was described as strong, elevated, robust, and picking up by several districts." The industry has added jobs all year at a 4 percent clip, more than twice as fast as the overall economy. The job gains have shown up in 40 or more states. The elevated rate of hiring shows that, so far, the industry has been able to find workers - though not necessarily with the experience companies would prefer. The pool of available experienced construction workers appears to be drying up. In June, the number of unemployed jobseekers who last worked in construction hit a 14-year low, according to data @Constr uctor Ma g AGC of America has put together a wide-ranging Workforce Development Plan to encourage companies, school systems and government agencies at all levels to address the growing shortfall of experienced workers. from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The same month, the overall unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 percent, the lowest in eight years, implying that it will not be easy for contractors to find workers laid off from other industries, either. AGC members have been reporting selected labor shortages for two years or more. In a survey that more than 1,300 members completed in July, 86 percent of the respondents said their firms were having difficulty filling key salaried professional or hourly craft professional positions. The most prevalent shortage was for carpenters: nearly three-quarters of respondents whose firms currently employ carpenters reported difficulty hiring them. For more than a dozen other crafts, anywhere from half to two-thirds of the companies that employ those crafts reported difficulty filling positions. Craft positions are not the only openings that are hard to fill. Some 55 percent of respondents whose firms employ project managers or supervisors and 43 percent of companies with estimators reported difficulty filling those salaried positions. Overwhelmingly, contractors expect it will remain hard or get harder to fill openings for both hourly and salaried positions. Companies are responding in a number of ways. Forty-three percent of respondents say their firms have turned more to subcontractors. Onethird of respondents' companies are using staffing businesses. One out of five is using labor-saving equipment, tools or machinery. Some companies (13 percent) are using Lean construction methods. Fewer than 10 percent report using unions, off-site manufacturing or building information modeling (BIM), however. AGC of America has put together a wide-ranging Workforce Development Plan to encourage companies, school systems and government agencies at all levels to address the growing shortfall of experienced workers. In addition, AGC holds regular BIM Forums, week-long training programs for management professionals, and conferences for human resources personnel. AGC has overhauled its supervisory training program, which is now available online. And many AGC chapters are involved with local career academies, school-based programs, and union apprenticeships in some parts of the country. These steps should help build skills for existing and new workers, while spreading the word that construction offers plenty of career opportunities. But the hunt for talent is likely to remain one of the industry's biggest challenges, if not the biggest. ◆ S E P T E MB E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 5 | 33

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Constructor - September/October 2015

Editor’s Note
President’s Message
CEO’s Letter
Lean in and Learn
Construction Corner
Getting Ready for the Big Ships
Old, New, Tried & True
Simonson Says
The Picture of Health
Technology Toolbox
Inside AGC
Workforce Shortage Report: Southern Region
Bringing the Los Angeles Hall of Justice Back to Life
Employee Benefit Selections Can Yield Greater Rewards
2015 Insurance Guide
Index to Advertisers
Final Inspection

Constructor - September/October 2015