While the potential for trillions of dollars of new infrastructure spending looms on the horizon, America’s construction industry is struggling to even keep pace with current demand for new homes, businesses, roads, and bridges. A shortage of supplies and employees has created ongoing challenges for construction firms and their customers.
“The home building industry faces a major shortage of skilled workers. This persistent challenge endangers the affordability and availability of housing and hinders a robust economic recovery,” said Ed Brady, president and CEO of the Home Builders Institute (HBI), which recently released a report detailing the extent of the worker shortage. At the start of 2021, 60% of builders were experiencing a labor shortage, and the industry was in need of more than 300,000 additional workers, according to HBI. Even more recently, the trade association Associated Builders and Contractors estimated 430,000 additional workers would need to be hired in 2021.
While the construction labor shortage has been exacerbated by recent economic conditions, it is a trend that predates the COVID-19 pandemic. The longer-term issue stems from a decades-long decline in trade education and a lack of interest among younger workers, many of whom perceive employment in the construction industry as a last resort.
The construction labor shortage is most severe for framing crews and carpenters, where about 25% of firms reported a serious shortage and nearly another 50% reported moderate labor shortages, the HBI report noted. Other trades facing significant labor shortages included bricklayers, masons, concrete workers, painters, and plumbers.
Despite short- and long-term labor shortages at the national level, states where population growth has been hottest are also where construction hiring has boomed in recent years. From 2015 to 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded about 35% growth in construction employment in Idaho and Nevada, as well as about 30% growth in Florida, Arizona, Oregon, and North Carolina. In contrast, states in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions have seen construction jobs stagnate or even decline over the past five years.
To find which states have added the most construction jobs over the same time period, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed BLS data between 2015 and 2020 and calculated the percentage change in construction employment.
The analysis found a 9.9% increase in construction employment in Tennessee. In total, 8,920 construction jobs have been added. Out of all U.S. states, Tennessee has seen the 19th largest increase in construction employment.
Here is a summary of the data for Tennessee:
- Percentage change in construction employment (2015–2020): 9.9%
- Percentage change in total employment (2015–2020): 3.2%
- Total change in construction employment (2015–2020): 8,920
- Total construction employment (2020): 99,030
- Median annual wage for construction workers (2020): $40,520
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Percentage change in construction employment (2015–2020): 8.4%
- Percentage change in total employment (2015–2020): 0.9%
- Total change in construction employment (2015–2020): 460,010
- Total construction employment (2020): 5,937,830
- Median annual wage for construction workers (2020): $48,610
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Construction Coverage’s website: https://constructioncoverage.