Despite worker shortages in certain crafts, a new study conducted on behalf of the Construction Labor Research Council (CLRC) and sponsored by The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC) indicated the union construction industry is growing.
The 2019 Union Craft Labor Supply Study is the only national, multi-craft, union-specific study to focus on construction and maintenance. Of its key findings, nearly three-quarters of participants project growth this year in the construction and maintenance industry, and roughly 25 percent indicated 2019 will be a year of “strong growth.” Among the sectors where strong growth is expected to take place include civil, commercial/institutional, manufacturing and oil/natural gas/chemical.
About 69 percent of respondents reported worker shortages. The majority, 54 percent, defined the shortage as small, while 15 percent identified having a large shortage of labor. Nearly a third of companies (31 percent) claimed a surplus or the right number of tradesmen and tradeswomen in their organization.
Companies with at least 501 employees had more concerns about worker shortages than those with 500 or fewer employees.
The report also analyzed craft specific data for three key factors: 2018 actual, 2019 projected and
2018 actual data indicated boilermakers, carpenters and millwrights, heat and frost insulators and iron workers were the building trades with the most substantial shortages. As for apprentices, contractors indicated the most significant shortages were found among insulators, iron workers and painters and allied trades in 2018. Projected 2019 data shows the concerns regarding manpower shortages for the 2018 actual crafts remained, while the painters and allied trades were added to the greater shortage list in 2019.
According to the study, the lack of skilled labor did affect work, as 44 percent of contractors/subcontractors and construction managers did not bid on some work due to a manpower shortage. The trades most impacting the decision to not bid on work were electricians, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters, iron workers, carpenters and millwrights.
Contractors were also asked to identify the most difficult skills/tasks to fill on jobsites. Over a quarter
(26 percent) said welding was the most in-demand skill, followed by electrician (14 percent). Journeyman-level tradesmen and tradeswomen was third at 7 percent, followed by plumber, pipefitter and steamfitter at 5 percent. Foreman/supervisor was also needed by 5 percent of respondents.
The report also revealed 92 percent of union/labor representatives strongly believe there is an immediate need for additional union contractors.