Over three quarters of contractors plan to raise staff levels in 2019

ConDig (02-Jan-19). Over three quarters of contractors expect to expand workforce levels this year as the construction market continues to boom, according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

The association said that 79% of construction firms plan to expand their payrolls in 2019 — but an almost equal percentage are concerned about their ability to locate and hire qualified workers amid a deepening skills shortage.

“Construction executives appear to remain confident about their market prospects for 2019 and plan to add headcount to cope with the added workload,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. 

“Even as they are optimistic about growing demand, contractors are concerned about finding qualified workers to execute projects.”

In August, the association reported that well over two thirds of contractors are struggling to secure craft workers as a lack of skilled labor raises costs for companies across the construction industry.

In its new report, Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Report, the association found that  the percentage of respondents who expect a market segment to expand exceeds the percentage who expect it to contract for all 13 categories of projects included in the survey. 

Public building construction scored the highest net positive reading of 17%. Three other segments had a 16% net positive that included highway, K-12 school and hospital construction. Projects for federal government agencies and retail/warehouse/lodging both had a net positive reading of 15%. Water & sewer and transportation facility construction had a net positive reading of 14%.

Four categories had a slightly less-positive net reading, with private office construction at 13%; manufacturing construction at 12%; higher education construction at 11% and power construction at 10%. The lowest net positive reading was for multifamily residential construction, at 5%. 

Association officials said this may indicate that multifamily construction has outpaced demand for now in some locations.

“As growing demand and labor shortages force contractors to do more with less, many firms are increasing their investments in labor-saving technologies and techniques like building information modeling, lean construction and robotics,” noted Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. 

He added that 32% of respondents report their firms are using methods to reduce onsite worktime, including lean construction, virtual construction techniques or offsite prefabrication, while 28% are investing in labor-saving equipment, including drones, robots and 3-D printers.

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