Labor Shortage Hammers U.S. Construction Industry

By Gamble, Bridget | PM Network, April 2013 | Go to article overview
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Labor Shortage Hammers U.S. Construction Industry

Gamble, Bridget, PM Network

Home construction projects in the United States aren't anywhere near their 2006 peak, but they're on the rise. Building applications for homes and apartments rose 31 percent last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It's no longer market demand that's holding back projects- it's a scarcity of skilled workers.

Construction Industry Institute reports that roughly 75 percent of contractors are struggling to find enough skilled workers for their projects. To keep pace with the industry's projected annual growth of 2.9 percent over the next decade, some 275,000 new workers will need to join the field each year, according to research from the Associated Schools of Construction. And trade group the Construction Users Roundtable is predicting a shortage of 2 million skilled workers as early as 2017.

Project managers are already feeling the pinch on their teams. Redstone Painting & Finishes, for instance, is running one of its projects in Des Moines, Iowa, USA with its 41-person crew short by 14 workers. The smaller team is racking up overtime, driving up project costs by 50 percent, company president Rob Knudsen told USA Today.

New Solution, New Problem

"The construction industry has had to move very quickly to supplement the worker shortage," says Ardith Rademacher, managing partner at Ardith Rademacher & Associates Incorporated, and president of, based in San Antonio, Texas, USA. "Teams have gotten leaner."

The worker shortage means significant talent-management issues for project managers on construction sites, she says. "They're managing more projects and playing multiple roles at once, meaning they have less time to interview potential employees who could speed up their process," she says.

The applicants project managers are interviewing increasingly do not have the skills to match the positions. Many construction workers fled the field during the recession for more readily available jobs driving trucks or working factory lines. Now, team members returning to the industry have less hands-on experience with current technology.

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