Welcome to 2022. Despite inflation concerns and ongoing production bottlenecks, at the end of last year builder confidence edged higher for the fourth consecutive month on strong consumer demand and limited existing inventory, according to the NAHB (National Assn. of Home Builders). We ended 2021 on a strong note. Let’s take that energy and carry it through to the New Year.
The month of January is typically one for resolutions and goal setting. In the next few weeks, we will highlight key areas—resolutions, if you will—specifically for the construction industry. Some of these resolutions include considering sustainability (in more than one way) and leveraging technology to the fullest. But for today, let’s focus on the worker.
Only 18 states and the District of Columbia have added construction jobs since just before the start of the pandemic in February 2020 despite a pickup in most states from October to November, according to an analysis of federal employment data released by the AGC (Associated General Contractors of America). Association officials said one reason employment is below pre-pandemic levels in many parts of the country is the lack of available workers to hire.
From February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused projects to be halted or canceled—to November 2021, construction employment decreased in 32 states. The largest percentage losses were in Louisiana, Wyoming, and New York.
Association officials said labor shortages are undermining the construction industry’s ability to fully recover. They urged public officials to boost investments in career and technical education and other programs that expose more people to construction career opportunities. They added the association was working with its chapters and member firms to recruit more, and more diverse, people into the industry.
This challenge existed long before the pandemic—although the pandemic exacerbated it. We have been talking about the worker shortage—and the solutions—for years. The answers are going to need to be myriad. We need a combination of partnerships with local high schools and collages; greater government involvement and public policy; and heightened adoption of technology in construction firms.
Technology serves a few roles. It helps fill the gaps left by the workers who have left and will not return. Here at Constructech, we also believe technology can help by making careers more attractive and can help work crews become more efficient and safer. The industry was making strides before the pandemic, but then that threw everything into a tailspin.
Now, we need to ramp back up. We need to focus on the workers. We need to once again begin to address this. 2022 is the year. With a combination of education, public policy, and technology, the industry can begin to address the shortage—but it requires constant conversation from the industry as a whole to inspire the next generation.
Stick around, as we continue the conversation on resolutions next week, focusing on how we can leverage technology to the fullest. In some cases, it means purchasing new solutions. In other cases, it means leveraging the tech tools that already exist within your “toolbox.”
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