The bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed Congress Nov. 11, 2021, is set to release $1 trillion in federal infrastructure money. The influx of funds and projects means an increased demand for construction work and workers, and construction companies are concerned they won’t be able to find enough help to meet demand.
The U.S. currently is facing overall low unemployment fueled by a rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the $600 billion earmarked in the bill for transportation funding is going head to head with the construction industry’s interests in finding new workers.
Brian Turmail, Associated General Contractors of America’s industry group’s vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives, told The Wall Street Journal: “The severity of the labor shortage means you’re paying workers more and your construction schedules are longer, both of which are big drivers in overall cost.”
The Wall Street Journal also reports Moody’s Analytics anticipates the peak of the bill’s effects will be felt in the fourth quarter of 2025 when nearly 872,000 new jobs will be needed to complete projects throughout the U.S.
For its part, the government has announced it will host a talent pipeline challenge to provide construction job training, but even with these efforts, the construction industry at large continues to face an aging workforce and is competing with work-from-home occupations that are not as dirty or dangerous.
AGC expects wages to increase sharply as a result. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports average hourly wages for craftsmen rose 6.2% from a year earlier—the fastest rate since 1982.
Ananth Prasad, president of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association, told The Wall Street Journal: “We need to have a conversation as a country about how we support a qualified workforce to do the things we want to do.”
But until that happens, companies are improving benefits, workplace culture and amenities and hoping for the best.