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Construction worker shortage has reached “crisis” levels

There are currently 300,000 to 400,000 open construction positions on a monthly basis

For career switchers looking for a new path that doesn’t necessarily require a college degree, they could do worse than the building trades. To keep pace with current construction demand, and account for attrition, 740,000 new construction workers are needed each year for the next three years, a report by the Home Builders Institute contends.

“The construction industry needs more than 61,000 new hires every month, if we are to keep up with both industry growth and the loss of workers either through retirement or simply leaving the sector for good,” said Home Builders Institute CEO Ed Brady. “From 2022 through 2024, this total represents a need for an additional 2.2 million new hires for construction. That’s a staggering number.”

Since the last housing bubble burst, when more than a million residential construction workers lost their jobs, a shortage has developed. Now the need for new housing supply is acute: 12 million households have formed since 2012, yet only 10 million units were built during that time, per an analysis of Bureau of Labor statistics by the National Association for Home Builders.

“The construction worker shortage has reached crisis level. The situation will only become more challenged in the coming year when other industries rebound and offer competitive wages and benefits to prospective employees,” said Brady.

There are currently 300,000 to 400,000 open construction positions on a monthly basis. Around one-third of construction workers are immigrants, and a growing number — now about 11% — are women. About a fifth of the sector is self-employed.

It’s going to take a lot more construction workers before it gets easier to nab a qualified, reputable contractor to complete that kitchen renovation. It takes time to gain expertise in the sector. So outreach for training construction workers should start when people are considering career paths, as early as grade school, Brady said.

“We need to build the next generation of skilled tradespeople in construction,” he said. “One of our most important tasks as an industry is to work with parents, educators and students, as early as the middle school years, to demonstrate that young people can have the promise of great jobs and careers in the trades.”

The pay is also typically higher than median U.S. wages, with half of payroll workers in construction earning more than $50,000 a year, compared to the median U.S. wage of $49,000. The top 25% of construction wage earners make at least $71,000, compared to $67,410 in the U.S. overall.

Increasing worker pay, of course, could help attract more people to the building trades, Brady notes. But he outlined additional strategies to lure more people into the sector.

Work could also be done to attract more women to the construction trade, develop sensible immigration policies, and train and place more minority and lower-income youth and adults in construction trades. Veterans and members of the military transitioning out of service are other groups that, with access to trade skills education, might be interested in construction.

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