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Is construction worker shortage affecting paint industry?

As you’re fully aware, there’s a lack of construction workers. But did you know it’s a record 650,000 open jobs? Sad but true. A messy cocktail of changing American values, expensive construction materials, and a heavy pour of infrastructure spending has resulted in a hangover in the form of an epic shortage of workers in the construction industry. But fear not, because we have remedies!

3 August, 2023

There’s a huge labor shortage in the construction industry — the biggest deficiency on record. In an article published on CNBC, authors Lori Ann LaRocco and Natalie Rose Goldberg report that there are ~650,000 jobs to fill, slowing the construction of many projects including infrastructure, residences, and hospitals.

While the labor market has been tight all over, construction has taken the biggest hit In fact, this is the highest number of unfilled jobs ever recorded by the industry, which now posts an average of 390,000 openings per month. (Imagine onboarding 390,000 new hires!) Maria Davidson, CEO and founder of Kojo, a materials management company, was quoted as saying that there’s as much as a four-year backlog in construction.

The authors also cite data from Zip Recruiter that show at the start of the pandemic, applications for positions in the construction industry dropped 40%, and have yet to recover.

Reasons behind the shortage

One reason is that there’s more to do: Biden’s infrastructure bill resulted in more communities having more money to launch construction projects. But labor supply is unable to meet the newly robust construction demand. Also, the article noted, while the bill provides plenty of money for the projects, it doesn’t have provision for encouraging people to enter the trade or training them once they do. 

Another explanation for the labor shortage, the article continues, is that American society has increasingly embraced college degrees as the preferred path to success for young people, at the expense of work in the trades. Constructions trades are believed to be hard work, often in difficult and dangerous environments, ranking #2 in workplace fatalities. APC has reported many times also on the high rate of suicide among construction workers. Over the last few decades, a job in construction has not been seen as very appealing by young people looking for a career.

Also, the article continued, with young people opting for other types of jobs, the workforce is aging, and people who remain in the industry can fail to meet the physical demands of the job. Firms are increasingly retaining older workers as trainers and teachers.

A related problem is the higher cost of building materials, and still some problems in the supply chain, all of which puts work behind. When construction is delayed, it dominos into the trades that follow and pushes back or jeopardizes work for the painters who are usually called in toward the end of the project.

More money in construction jobs

But geez, it’s not all bad news! The pay for construction workers is increasing. (Click here if you want to see which states offer the highest painter pay.) Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at Associated General Contractors of America, was quoted in the article as saying, “The construction industry is now paying 80% more than the average non-farm job in the United States.” (Does that mean farm painting is a honey hole?) There is always work available, and workers can earn significant overtime as well.

Solutions? Yeah, we got solutions: 1) Get more women on board, as they now constitute only about 6-7% of industry personnel. 2) Prioritize hiring of recent immigrants. Granted, two solutions aren’t a ton of solutions, but it’s a start.
(Image courtesy of Portwest.)

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