Photo of cement roller and workers standing near wet cement. "Industry trend" label in the upper left corner.

Construction workers quit their jobs at a rate of 2.3%, while only 1.7% were discharged, making this past June the 16th month in a row that workers have quit at a higher or equal rate as discharges, according an August release from The Associated Builders and Contractors

Struggles to hire new and skilled employers, supply shortages, and burnout from overbooked schedules are just a few of the obstacles that have resulted in contractors turning down work.

“It’s like this all over the industry,” one residential project manager wrote on Reddit. “A lack of new tradespeople coming in, old talent retiring, the rest are just trying to keep up with the work. It’s a tradesman’s market right now, they can pick and choose their jobs, and they’re usually picking the easy ones.”

Laborers in the construction industry fear the level of adequacy maintained by current and new workers. In 2021, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index reported that 91% of laborers in the workforce are facing moderate to high difficulty finding skilled labor, with 62% of workers reporting high levels of difficulty. These concerns are especially relevant given that the median age of construction workers is 41 years old, portraying the lack of young professionals entering the industry. 

“I’m big on getting back to people and I do my absolute best to do so and preach the same to my team, but we are absolutely inundated with inquiries and cannot get back to everyone,” a landscaping company owner wrote. “Likewise, people often over-represent their projects and after I meet with them I’m just not interested because I have more profitable and/or rewarding projects I can do. I understand people’s frustration but it’s frustrating for us as well.”

An owner of two trade companies noted, “It’s tough to keep up with the demand, I usually get 100 + phone calls a day and a good 30 emails plus texts from customers that it’s hard to remember everything.”

While contractors grapple to keep up with their overbooked schedules, the availability of materials is directly affecting the tasks that contractors can get done. 95% of contractors are dealing with at least one material shortage, such as steel, lumber, or insulation products. 

Bernard Markstein, President and Chief economist of Markstein Advisors, addressed the construction industry’s recent challenges — increasing interest rates, slowing national economic growth, and the chance of a future recession. 

“Supply chain disruptions due to the Russia-Ukraine war continue, resulting in more caution in both residential and nonresidential construction,” Markstein said.

Shortages in supply and finding new, skilled labor, as well as overpacked schedules, could be some of the reasons that 60% of contractors are requesting higher bids for tasks. 

One Reddit user who is a construction purchaser describes 2022 as “a terrible time to do work” since contractors are struggling to even get bids. They concluded that “even if you finally get a bid, timelines are months, up to a year out and the upcharge is 25-50% higher than normal. Only advice if you have enough money is to offer to pay for the bid, at least that way the contractor isn’t losing money by preparing the proposal.”

Despite the many obstacles the construction industry is facing, there is hope in one area: the rate of construction employment. In July, construction employment grew by 32,000, specifically within the nonresidential construction sector, according to Associated Builders and Contractors. However, this does not end the need for change in supply shortages, overbooked schedules, and new skilled labor within the industry.