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CRE Opinion

Navigating DFW’s Tight Construction Labor Market

Adolfson & Peterson regional president Will Pender says the scarcity of workers has reached a crisis level in North Texas.
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Nationally, the construction industry has recovered more quickly than other industries, with employment nearing pre-pandemic levels and increasing new construction starts. But the continuing labor shortage is hamstringing the construction industry’s growth, requiring general contractors to be shrewd and proactive to successfully navigate today’s tight job market.

Construction-related businesses need to hire 740,000 new workers annually for the next three years to keep up with demand, according to several industry organizations. The number of open construction sector jobs currently averages between 300,000 and 400,000 each month.

The construction labor shortage will undoubtedly impact every organization that wants to build a new facility or improve an existing one. With that in mind, executives planning construction projects over the next three years should carefully vet their general contractor to make sure it has the necessary partners and relationships to staff their jobs.

Nearly five million people have quit their jobs over the past 18 months. This phenomenon, dubbed “The Great Resignation,” has left millions of jobs vacant across the nation.

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Will Pender

Although many industries are struggling to find the people they need, but the labor scarcity in the construction industry has reached a crisis level. In fact, the lack of available labor has led to more project delays this year than material shortages, according to JLL.

Unfortunately, the labor situation isn’t going to get better any time soon. If anything, it’s going to get a lot worse. As other industries recover and begin to offer competitive wages and benefits to attract job seekers, the construction industry will have to fight for the same talent.   

Texas added 16,000 new construction jobs in September, with 5,800 of those jobs located in Dallas-Fort Worth. However, this job growth is of the lowest increases among all major industries tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

No company in the construction industry is immune from the labor shortage, but some are better positioned to deal with it by relying on long-term relationships. I’m proud that we’ve worked with some of our partners for more than 20 years; it goes a long way toward making sure we have the people and the materials necessary to successfully complete projects.

Filling the Baby Boomer Void

Workers aged 55 and older represent more than 20 percent of today’s construction workforce, according to several trade organizations. But the pandemic compelled many Baby Boomers to retire earlier than they planned.

As more people of the generation retire from the construction workforce, they’re leaving behind a tremendous void, both in the field and in the office, and taking an immense amount of knowledge with them. There are just not enough people to step into their shoes (or steel-toed boots, as the case may be).

The lack of young workers could be the result of the rise in Americans forgoing trade schools for a four-year college education, despite the great career opportunities the construction industry offers.

To backfill the exit of Baby Boomers, AP and other general contractors are actively engaged in outreach efforts in high schools and colleges to show young people how lucrative and fulfilling a career in construction can be.

Finding Creative Solutions

The construction industry is going to be dealing with a labor shortage for years to come. To adapt and thrive under these conditions, construction-related businesses must get more creative, embrace innovation and figure out how to succeed with fewer people.

Construction industry leaders are working hard to find a solution. It could be automation. Or prefabricated, modular buildings. It could be something that hasn’t been invented or discovered yet.

In the meantime, construction companies must invest time and resources to develop the next generation of tradespeople, construction professionals, and technology.

North Texas is growing quickly, attracting new employers and new residents. They need housing and hospitals, stores and schools, data centers and distribution facilities.

Someone has to build them.

Will Pender is president of the Gulf States region for Adolfson & Peterson Construction.

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Will Pender

Will Pender

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