Specialty Firms See Regional Growth as Both a Boon and a Challenge
Trade firms anticipate more work next year as the regional economy continues to grow, but the skilled labor shortage is still a headache
Specialty contractors in the Mountain States face another good-news, bad-news scenario next year: plenty of work available in most markets and an ongoing struggle to find enough qualified people to do it.
Utah’s overall unemployment rate, reported as 3.2% at the end of the third quarter of 2016 by the state’s Dept. of Workforce Services, is among the lowest in the country. Colorado’s unemployment also sits at 3.2%, and Idaho’s is 3.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Current U.S. unemployment is 4.9%.
Most economic forecasters say that the economies of all three states will continue to grow in 2017—although at a somewhat slower pace than in the past two years—adding jobs in almost every sector, but especially in construction.
The construction industry in Colorado will grow by 5.7% next year, says economist Richard Wobbekind of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. Overall, the state will gain 63,400 jobs in 2017 as it continues to be the second-fastest growing state in the U.S. “Colorado will continue to rank among the top 10 states nationally for employment growth in 2017, a six-year standing,” says Wobbekind.
“Colorado should see an increase in construction spending during 2017,” says Mark Latimer, president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Rocky Mountain Chapter. “Workforce development and finding skilled workers will remain a key issue next year.”
“No question about it, Utah specialty contractors see qualified labor shortages as the biggest threat to their business in 2017,” says Chris DeHerrera, president and CEO of Utah’s ABC Chapter. “Labor shortages have the real potential to affect production and profitability for their companies and the industry overall.”
“Certainly, the construction economy in Colorado continues to improve, but with it comes the challenge of meeting the workforce demand,” says Debra Scifo, executive director of the American Subcontractors Association of Colorado. “But it’s a challenge that we’ve seen coming for a number of years, and we continue to seek immediate and long-term solutions.”