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Construction Struggles to Find Workers

A persistent shortage of construction workers in the U.S. is slowing the completion of everything from single-family homes to major infrastructure projects, according to CNBC.

What’s going on: To meet labor demands this year, “construction firms will need to attract an estimated 546,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring,” CNBC reports, citing data from Associated Builders and Contractors.

  • “The construction industry averaged more than 390,000 job openings per month in 2022, the highest level on record, while unemployment in the sector of 4.6% was the second lowest on record.”

Why it’s important: The industry’s labor shortage is not likely to be resolved any time soon. When combined with rising materials costs, it will only worsen the backlog of projects, which is already at a four-year high.

What’s needed: The bipartisan infrastructure bill of 2021 allocated money for projects, but not for “enticing new workers … or training” them, according to CNBC. Another component of the solution: immigration reform, a policy the NAM has long advocated.

  • “More money is going to need to be spent on training additional workers, bringing people into this industry,” a source told CNBC.
  • Said another, “We should also be looking at ways to allow more people to lawfully enter the country and work in construction careers, whether that’s a temporary work visa program that’s specific to construction, or broader comprehensive immigration reform.”

Our take: “The record manufacturing construction activity seen in the U.S. is further straining an already tight labor market,” said Chad Moutray, chief economist at the NAM and director of the Center for Manufacturing Research at the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate.

  • “Leaders in the sector are trying to think of ways to differentiate themselves in the competition for talent. Such pressures—along with changing demographics—are likely to keep workforce challenges front and center over the coming years.”
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