The US construction industry is growing, and it doesn’t look like it will slow down in the foreseeable future. A recent report shows the US construction industry is expected to steadily grow over the next four quarters and continue to do so for the next three years, reaching an output of $1,749,898.1 million by 2027. A large part of that growth could be attributed to the US government’s investment in domestic manufacturing and infrastructure from the CHIPS and Science Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Residential and commercial construction is growing as well. According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) construction spending increased in October 2023 for manufacturing, power and education projects as well as single-family homebuilding. In fact, private residential construction rose by 1.2%, as single-family construction climbed for the sixth-straight month, by 1.1%.
With so much demand for work, the greatest challenge for the construction industry in 2024 is the same one it faced in 2023 and 2022 – navigating a shrinking construction workforce. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 431,000 job openings in construction in September 2023 and 375,000 in August. In late November 2023, AGC reported that construction employment increased in 63% of metro areas but tight labor conditions keep firms from hiring more.
Here’s a look at the top workforce construction challenges for 2024.
Workers Want Higher Wages
An increased demand for workers means contractors will have to continue to pay more to successfully recruit talent away from the competition. But workers just aren’t taking advantage of potential employers, they, like the rest of the country’s workers, need to pay for increases in cost-of-living expenses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the consumer price index rose 3.2% over the past 12 months. The biggest increases were shelter, food and medical care; shelter accounting for 70% of the increase. If these costs continue to rise, workers will either demand a higher wage to cover them or look at competitors who will pay them more.
Lack of Qualified Workers
Not only are there more jobs than workers, but many of those workers that may be available aren’t qualified. All year construction companies have been faced with the double challenge of not only hiring workers but finding candidates who are qualified to work in construction. The lack of qualified workers is due in part to the number of Baby Boomers who are retiring. According to the US Census, all Baby Boomers will be retired by 2030. This issue lies in the fact that this generation makes up a huge portion of workers in the construction industry. Between 2003 to 2020, the number of workers 55 and older in construction nearly doubled from 11.5 to 22.7%, according to the BLS,
Competing with Other Industries for Workers
Construction isn’t the only industry that is experiencing worker shortages. In 2022, more than 50 million workers quit their jobs looking for better work/life flexibility, better pay and strong company culture. And while construction is reeling from worker shortage, it isn’t the only one. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, labor shortages are impacting several industries that show a number of unfilled job openings including leisure and hospital and manufacturing.
While hiring has slowed down somewhat, it hasn’t stopped, and with several other industries facing worker shortages, contractors will have to work even harder to recruit workers. Promoting your company culture and benefits shows candidates that construction is a growing, viable industry.
Convincing Young People to Get into Construction
It has been difficult to boost numbers in construction when fewer young people are entering the industry. According to the BLS, 60% of 2022 high school graduates ages 16 to 24 were enrolled in colleges or universities. The focus on pursuing higher education over a trade has steadily increased over the past 40 years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1969 there were 8 million students enrolled in postsecondary institutions and in 2019, 19.6 million were enrolled.
The push for higher education, and less for trade schools, is likely part of the reason for a decline in young people pursuing careers in construction. Other factors could include the working conditions in construction, like irregular hours, working outdoors in inclement weather and the potential for accidents.
While efforts to recruit younger people are bearing fruit, there’s still a long way to go and it will take a lot more new recruits to fill the expanding need for talent in the industry.
Bigger Need for Specialized Skills
As the construction industry gets more technically advanced, the increased need for specialized skills will only grow. In the last couple of years, technology in construction has skyrocketed to include things like augmented reality, autonomous robots, drone, AI and modular construction – to name a few. With all the technological advancements, construction workers must be more specialized than ever.
If the construction industry wants to meet the growing demand for infrastructure, residential and commercial projects, it must solve its workforce challenges. HR technology can help. Software applications that help hire, manage and grow workers can give contractors the strong workforce needed to compete in this ever-growing market.
Download our guide, 2024’s Top Construction Workforce Challenges, to learn how HR technology can help solve 2024’s biggest workforce challenges.