As part of the Autodesk family, our team was eager to see the results of their recent survey developed in partnership with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). The survey revealed insights into the construction labor shortage, plus how technology is helping companies address it.

Because finding and hiring qualified contractors is one of the most pressing day-to-day challenges for our customers, we wanted to explore the findings most relevant to their experiences. Here’s a breakdown of some of the key stats from the report.

Who was surveyed?

AGC conducted a survey of its members in July and August 2019. A total of 1,935 individuals from a broad range of firm types and sizes completed the survey.

Among responding firms that identified their market segments:

  • 68% are involved in building construction
  • 34% are involved in highway and transportation construction
  • 30% perform federal construction projects
  • 27% work on utility infrastructure projects

So, what did these firms report about their experience with the labor shortage?

80% of respondents said they're having difficulty filling the hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce.

According to the results, the worker shortage in construction is worsening. This aligns with what’s been seen across other reports: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 300,000 vacancies in the construction industry as of June. It’s expected to need 747,000 more employees by 2026.

One of the top efforts to find and retain qualified candidates has been raising pay. About two-thirds of firms said they have raised the base pay for craft workers, while nearly 30% are offering new bonuses and incentives. While this strategy provides a temporary solution, it certainly isn’t sustainable for every business, decreasing already razor-thin margins on projects.

The five toughest craft positions to fill are concrete workers, pipelayers, carpenters, cement masons, and crane and heavy equipment operators.

For all but one of the 20 craft personnel positions listed, at least half of the firms that employ those crafts reported the positions were harder to fill compared to a year ago. Salaried positions were somewhat easier to fill than craft positions, although nearly half (48%) of firms reported that project manager/supervisor positions were harder to fill than a year ago.

This gap will likely be intensified over the coming years. According to the National Center for Construction Education & Research, 41% of the current construction workforce is expected to retire by 2031. With fewer workers entering the construction industry, attracting and retaining young talent is now a top priority for companies across the board.

44% of firms report that workforce shortages are causing projects to take longer than originally anticipated, while 43% report that costs have been higher than anticipated.

Workforce shortages are impacting construction schedules and increasing the cost of many construction projects, beginning with the preconstruction phase. 44% of firms report that workforce shortages have prompted them to put higher prices into their bids for new projects, and 29% report they have put longer completion times into their bids for new work.

To address these problems, 29% of firms are investing in technology to supplement worker duties.

As labor shortages threaten to undermine the growth of the construction industry, contractors are taking steps to address the problem, including adopting ways to be more efficient through technology.

For example, 24% of firms report they are using more labor-saving equipment, including drones, robots, and 3-D printers. A similar share (23%) of firms are adopting methods to reduce time spent on onsite work, including relying on lean construction techniques, using virtual construction tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM), and doing more off-site prefabrication.

Wrap-up

“Workforce shortages remain one of the single most significant threats to the construction industry,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “However, construction labor shortages are a challenge that can be fixed.”

As the cost of labor goes up and firms look at ways to become more efficient, technology will play an even greater role in the construction process. This extends to preconstruction — in an industry where skilled labor is harder to find than ever, tools like BuildingConnected’s network have become pivotal to finding and hiring the right contractors for every project.