Construction Worker Shortage & Impact

Construction workers remain an essential element in the industry. Despite mechanization and technological development, the construction industry still depends on workers to complete various projects. However, construction companies are struggling to fill vacancies in their projects. This shortage of construction workers has numerous implications for the industry. The shortage reduces productivity, impacts quality controls, increases the risk of injuries on construction sites, and exerts pressure on construction companies as claims for compensations increase.

Understanding the impacts of labor shortage in the industry can help construction companies develop mitigation measures.

Why Is There a Shortage of Construction Workers?

Several factors contribute to the current shortage of workers in the construction industry. Some factors are within the control of employers in the industry, while others are outside their control. Construction companies should address factors within their control to reduce the impact of labor shortages in the industry. Here are some of the factors leading to the shortage of construction workers.

An aging workforce. The construction industry has been dominated by baby boomers who are currently in their retirement age. Unfortunately, there are few millennials and generation z who are willing to replace the aging workforce. The younger population displays less interest in construction jobs due to working conditions or desire to work in other industries. A disconnect between education institutions and the job market is also working against the construction industry.

The Great Resignation. One of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic was great resignation. The containment measures gave workers time to reevaluate their priorities and most workers are now demanding a work-life balance. Demand for jobs that offered better work-life balance increased, while on-site jobs face massive resignations. Most workers approaching their retirement age in the construction industry also left their positions before time.

Challenges in recalling workers laid off during the great recession. The construction industry laid off a considerable percentage of its workforce during the great recession between 2007 and 2008. As the economy improved and construction projects increased after the pandemic, employers are finding it hard to trace the laid-off professionals.

Better wages in other sectors. A significant number of workers who worked in the construction industry before the pandemic have moved to other sectors. Transport and logistics sectors, for instance, employed a considerable number of construction workers.

Which Areas of Construction Are Being the Most Impacted by Construction Labor Shortage?

While almost every area of the construction industry is facing a shortage of workers, the following positions are the hardest to fill.

  • Plumbers
  • Operations manager
  • Project manager
  • Electrician

Positions that require unskilled workers are still easy to fill. However, the unskilled workforce can only work with trained workers. The availability of an unskilled workforce can, therefore, not address the labor shortage in the industry.

What Is the Impact of the Lack of Construction Workers?

The shortage in the construction workforce impacts the industry in numerous ways. Like in every other sector, a shortage of skilled personnel leads to productivity, costs, and safety concerns. Contractors unable to fill various positions face the following challenges.

Demand for Construction Services Causing Increased Project Costs

Construction has become more expensive due to labor shortages and supply chain issues. The few skilled workers available for construction jobs demand higher remunerations as the demand for labor increases. Competition for the few workers in the industry requires employers to use monetary incentives to attract talented workers. In addition to a labor shortage, supply chain issues also impact project costs. Contractors have to grapple with the increasing cost of materials before the global supply chain recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.

Projects Are Delayed or Take Much More Time Than Expected

Construction workers are the backbone of any construction project. While technology and mechanization have reduced the number of workers and time required to complete a project, skilled workers are needed to operate the machines. Without enough workers, construction companies delay some projects or prolong the completion time for existing projects. Operations managers working with a limited number of workers have to set their priorities right to keep their companies competitive. However, without the required number of workers, they are forced to put some projects on hold as they wait for workers to fill different vacancies.

Workers Are Feeling Burnout

As the shortage of workers continues to hurt the construction industry, existing workers are forced to work for longer hours to meet project completion deadlines. In an industry that demands the use of physical energy, working for long hours can lead to burnout. Burnout impacts the workers’ physical and mental health leading to reduced productivity. Contractors should be on the lookout for common causes of burnout and empower their employees to overcome them. While burnout can be sudden, there are warning signs for employers to look out for. One of the most common signs of burnout is increased use of alcohol or drugs. Helping the workers deal with burnout increases their productivity and as well as reduces workers’ risk on the construction site.

Quality Control Issues

The labor shortage in the industry means contractors have fewer experienced workers to complete the increasing number of construction projects. Some construction companies may try to proceed with projects without the entire crew. In such cases, unskilled workers are assigned duties that should only be left to professionals.

Increased Builder Risk

The labor shortage in the construction industry is also leading to increased builder risks. The rush to complete projects and poor quality controls caused by labor shortage can lead to dangerous working conditions. Exposing workers struggling with burnout or deploying inadequate/inexperienced workers increases the risk of accidents at the site. Leaving out essential members of the construction crew due to labor shortage also increases the risk of accidents. As contractors deal with the shortage of construction workers, they should organize frequent pieces of training on construction safety.

Want to Attract Talent to Your Construction Company? We Can Help

The shortage of construction workers may impact the operations of your company. However, employing the right recruitment and retention strategies can help you attract qualified workers and retain them in your company. RK can help you position your company as the preferred employer in the construction industry. Contact us to learn more.