Nearly 80% of construction firms plan to expand their payrolls in the coming year according to survey results released recently by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). However, almost an equal percentage of firms are worried about their ability to locate and hire qualified workers.

According to the AGC's findings, published in Contractors Remain Confident About Demand, Worried About Labor Supply: The 2019 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Report, more respondents expect their market segment to expand than contract in 2019. Between 23 and 32% of respondents expected market expansion compared to 11-16% of respondents who expected less work available in 2019 compared to 2018.

"Construction executives appear to remain confident about their market prospects for 2019 and plan to add headcount to cope with the added workload," said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC's chief executive officer. "Even as they are optimistic about growing demand, contractors are concerned about finding qualified workers to execute projects."

The 79% of respondents who planned to increase headcounts in 2019 was a four percentage point increase from the same survey in 2018, and was a six percentage point increase from 2017. About 20% of respondents plan to increase headcount by 11-25% in 2019.

However, 78% of respondents report they are having a hard time filling salaried and hourly craft positions, with nearly a quarter expecting it to be ever harder to fill positions in 2019. One-third of respondents noted that staffing challenges drove the costs much higher than anticipated and 34% reported that projects have taken longer than anticipated. Nearly a quarter of firms increased contributions or improved employee benefits to cope with workforce shortages. Additionally, nearly two-third of firms planned to increase investments in training and development in 2019.

The report was based on survey results from over 1,300 firms from 49 states and the District of Columbia. Contractors of varying sizes answered questions about their hiring, workforce, business, and information technology plans for the coming year.