By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS & REVIEW MAGAZINE
Seventy-nine percent of construction firms nationwide plan to expand their payrolls in 2019 but nearly as many construction industry employers worry they may not be able to grow operations because they won’t be able to secure enough qualified workers.
This percentage comes from the results of an annual survey, “The 2019 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Report,” published by the Associated General Contractors Survey of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate.
AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said contractors are optimistic about the industry’s market health in the new year, but they’re extremely concerned that they won’t be able to recruit, train and retain enough bodies to fulfill their project-specific workforce requirements.
“Construction executives appear to remain confident about their market prospects for 2019,” said Sandherr, “and they plan to add headcount to cope with the added workload. But although they are confident about the demand for their products and services, contractors are definitely concerned about finding enough qualified workers to execute projects.”
The survey, given annually by the AGC and Sage, asks respondents as to which of 13 project categories and market segments they anticipate seeing expansion over the next 12 months. Construction market segments identified in the survey are: public building, highway, K-12 school, hospital, federal government, retail/warehouse/lodging, water and sewer, transportation facility, private office, manufacturing, higher education, power, and multifamily residential.
Public building construction scored the highest net positive reading, 17 percent, by survey respondents. Three other segments – highway, K-12 school and hospital – indicated a 16 percent net positive. Four categories – private office, manufacturing, higher education and power – netted a 12 percent increase as compared to 2018 survey results. Multifamily residential scored the lowest of all 13 categories with regard to respondents’ anticipation of market expansion throughout 2019.
“Labor shortages are having an impact on construction costs and project schedules, based upon what our latest survey’s respondents are telling us,” Sandherr said. “One-third of respondents report that staffing challenges drove costs higher than anticipated.”