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Florida Construction Shortage – What This Could Mean Moving Forward

Construction projects in Florida have come to a halt around the state due to a serious worker shortage. Lack of available contractors is a “pretty significant crisis,” according to the Vice President of Operations for Tampa’s KAST Construction, Sean Ouellette – one that has led to significant delays on many local projects throughout the Bay Area.

Not having enough construction workers is costing Florida construction companies major money in operating costs, with consequences such as having to turn down projects. Here’s what the construction labor shortage could mean for Florida’s future.

How Bad Is the Worker Shortage?

Every quarter, USG Corporation partners with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to produce the Commercial Construction index. This index predicts the outlook for the industry based on ongoing challenges, trends, and countrywide data. The 2018 Q3 Index Report showed a disconcerting consensus among American contractors: more than 90% admit to having concern about labor shortages. Almost half (47%) say they expect it to be more difficult to find qualified workers in the next six months. These concerns have increased each quarter.

On August 29th, 2018, the Associated General Contractors of American released a survey that found a troubling 80% of contractors around the nation are having trouble finding qualified craft workers. Ouellette of KAST Construction says he noticed the downward trend two years ago, but it has only this year started to affect projects and costs. The persistent downward spiral has driven construction companies around the country to ask one question: “Why are workers leaving construction?”

What Happened to All the Workers?

The President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donahue, believes the steel and aluminum tariffs have contributed to the shortage by “slowing down the construction industry’s growth and job creation.” Contractors having to pay more for steel and aluminum supplies is restricting their abilities to scale their companies – thus impacting things such as taking on new hires, offering training programs, or increasing salaries. This, in turn, may have reduced the number of employees willing to work as contractors.

Other theories blame the 2008 economic recession for the current reduction in workers contractors are experiencing a decade later. After the recession, many workers in construction switched to other trades and industries that were more stable. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that ten years later, there is a marked shortage of trained and qualified construction workers. The crackdown on undocumented workers and more strict immigration controls by the White House Administration may also have impacted the construction industry’s labor force.

A Future in Construction That Doesn’t Rely on Manual Labor?

Whether it’s higher tariffs or perhaps something else causing the shortage, contractors are looking forward at what the future may hold for their enterprises. The President and Chief Executive Officer of USG Corp, Jennifer Scanlon, says the construction worker shortage is a trend that’s been around for over a year.

She recommends industry leaders start coming up with innovations to keep project completion on time despite being shorthanded, as the shortage doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. As more and more contractors begin to worry about what their futures might hold, it may be time to look for solutions outside of a larger labor force.

Many construction companies in Florida and around the country are turning to technological solutions to potentially fill the gap left by absent qualified workers. Machines such as CAD routers, 3D printers, robots, drones, and virtual construction tools and software may provide a solution for some Florida contractors most affected by the labor shortage.

Moving forward, it seems the Florida labor shortage could change the very fabric of how the state handles construction projects. If the shortage persists (as experts predict), more companies will likely turn to technology instead of human labor. Floridians may see a major upswing in technological innovations in construction projects in the coming months and years.

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