Infrastructure Spending Could Be Hindered by a Shortage of Skilled Labor

June 19, 2017, 7:29 PM UTC

A joint report from lobbying group U.S. Chamber of Commerce and construction materials manufacturer USG Corporation shows commercial contractors anticipate they’ll have more trouble hiring workers during the second half of 2017.

The USG and Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index is a quarterly economic report that gauge the outlook for the commercial construction industry. Each quarter, researchers survey a panel of 2,700 commercial construction decision-makers and provide findings that are representative of the entire U.S. construction industry by geography, size, and type of company.

It’s clear that contractors are feeling the effects of the skilled labor shortage. Two-thirds of contractors say they will hire new employees in the next six months, but almost all of them (95%) had a moderate to difficult time finding skilled workers for their job openings in the second quarter of 2017.


They don’t expect the shortage to subside. About half of contractors reported that their ability to hire skilled workers will likely worsen in the next six months. More companies in the Northeast anticipated worsened conditions, with 59% predicting that hiring ability would worsen compared to just 27% in the West.

The biggest shortage is in concrete workers, according to the report. Millwork, masonry, electrical and plumbing round out the top five skilled jobs contractors are struggling to hire.

The report shows that contractors are also concerned about the skill levels of the employees already on the payroll. More than half of contractors are highly concerned about their workers having adequate skills.

The 203,000 construction job openings in April 2017 represents an eight-fold increase from the same month in 2009, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Trump administration has promised to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure in the U.S., but a lack of skilled workers could make it difficult to deliver.