A new Associated General Contractors survey finds that many construction firms are having trouble finding enough workers to staff their projects, both at the craft and salaried levels.

“With the construction industry in most of the country now several years into a recovery, many firms have gone from worrying about not having enough work to not having enough workers,” Stephen Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer, told reporters on Aug. 31. 

A total of 69% of the 1,459 survey respondents said they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions, and 38% said they face challenges in filling salaried positions. Sandherr warned that continued labor shortages could undermine economic growth as firms turn down work because of their inability to find enough skilled people to do the jobs. Between July 2015 and July 2016, construction employment expanded in two-thirds of the metropolitan areas AGC tracks. 

Some of the hardest-hit areas in the U.S. are in the South, particularly in Atlanta. As a result, many firms are increasing base pay rates and improving employee benefits to attract workers.

Much of the problem stems from an aging workforce: Workers are retiring at a faster rate than new hires are entering the industry.
But Gregory Davis, director of the Laborers International Union of North America, says, “We’re not having problems with worker shortages. We’re still trying to get out of this last recession and get everybody back to work.” 

However, Davis said, some workers who lost their jobs during the recession “are still waiting by the sidelines, waiting for the numbers to get better” in the construction industry.