U.S. Construction Industry Short Half A Million Workers This Year
The U.S. construction industry will need an estimated 546,000 more workers this year, above and beyond the normal pace of hiring, to have enough labor, according to Associated Builders and Contractors, based on the organization's proprietary model.
In 2024, the industry will need to bring in more than 342,000 new workers, even if construction spending growth slows significantly that year, the ABC forecasts.
Those shortages could stand in the way of the federal government's ambitious infrastructure and other construction spending plans authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Chips and Science Act.
“We’re putting millions and millions of dollars into infrastructure without anybody to install it,” Home Builders Institute CEO Ed Brady told the Financial Times. “A shovel-ready project with nobody to operate the shovel is worthless.”
The shortages are nothing new for the industry. In 2022, the industry averaged more than 390,000 job openings each month, the highest level on record, ABC reports. For all of that year, construction industry unemployment came in at 4.6%, the second-lowest on record.
Not even higher interest rates, and the drop in homebuilding, are slowing down the demand for workers, according to ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu — in part because of the new infrastructure spending associated with new chip plants and green energy facilities, among other projects.
Also, the average age of construction workers is high, and in recent decades, not enough younger people have been entering the trades to replace them as they age out of their jobs. Fewer young workers are learning necessary skills.
“This is not only a construction labor shortage but also a skills shortage,” Basu said in a statement.