Craftworker Shortage Was Easing Slightly Before COVID-19 Crisis Hit, New Study Finds
Click to Open PDFARLINGTON, VA - Labor shortages in the union construction and maintenance industry were still prevalent in early 2020, but respondents to a survey conducted between mid-January and mid-February reported that the problem had leveled off somewhat. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, upending conventional wisdom and compelling contractors, labor representatives and owner-clients to deal with a dramatically altered business landscape.
Nevertheless, the wealth of data generated by the sixth annual TAUC Union Craft Labor Supply Survey gives construction professionals an in-depth understanding of the "state of play" in the industry before the crisis. This information - especially the detailed charts and analysis on regional labor supply levels broken down by industry, region and individual crafts - will assist contractors and labor as they begin the long post-coronavirus recovery process. Knowing which areas of the country were experiencing labor shortages or surpluses pre-COVID-19 will be especially helpful in gauging where to allocate scarce resources.
The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC), in conjunction with the Construction Labor Research Council (CLRC), utilized a rigorous scientific methodology to analyze more than 800 responses to a multi-question survey sent earlier this year to a cross-section of contractors, union representatives and owner-clients. The large sample size and carefully worded questions combine to make this one of the most useful labor supply reports available, and the only union-specific study focusing on construction and maintenance.
In terms of the labor shortage, the survey found that the pre-COVID-19 narrative had shifted from a growing shortage to a stable shortage. That is, after a number of years where the industry saw increases in shortage data, in 2019 there was a "leveling off" Over the past three years of survey results covering 2017-2019, the range of responses (varying from large shortages to surpluses) has been quite consistent. But while the data has plateaued, the labor shortage issue hasn't disappeared; it has just stabilized. The big question is how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact labor supply levels in 2020 and beyond, a topic we will cover extensively in next year's survey.
Also, new to the study this year is an examination of the prevalence of per diem payments in the industry. Nearly half of the respondents said their organization paid per diems in 2019 and the average amount was $84.50. These payments were most common in the civil, manufacturing and utility industries; in terms of regional distribution, per diems were more prevalent in the New England, Southeast, and South Central areas of the country.