As building and remodeling season heat ups, there is growing concern that there isn’t a big enough skilled workforce to do all the building and construction ahead this season. While project demand is on the rise, the Chicago Tribune says that the construction workforce is only three-quarters of what it was during pre-recession times. Contractors and other tradesmen are being locked in months in advance of projects, while also being promised overtime. This means longer construction times, projects costing more, and clients being told to consider postponing projects until there is a workforce more readily available.
The Chicago Tribune’s Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz writes:
“The construction workforce in the Chicago metro area plunged from 29,600 people in 2008 to 18,100 in 2011, and while it has been slowly building back up, fewer than 22,000 people were working in the industry last year, or about 74 percent of the pre-recession level, according to data compiled by Cushman.
Meanwhile, construction activity is back in full swing and several major projects are gobbling a lot of workers. The number of construction permits issued for improvements at office buildings in the central business district, which took a steep dive from 828 in 2008 to 538 in 2009, has inched back up to pre-recession levels, hitting 897 in 2014 and 806 last year, according to Cushman's data. The total declared value of the permits is higher than it was before the downturn, $459 million last year versus $427 million in 2008, adjusted for inflation, suggesting higher construction costs… But lingering hangovers from the recession mean there aren't enough new workers to fill all the construction jobs, some contractors say…
When work was scarce, some workers retired early and others switched careers, compounding concerns about an aging construction workforce. The median age of construction workers climbed to 40.4 in 2010 from 37.9 in 2000, according to The Center for Construction Research and Training.”