Construction/maintenance study: 78% project growth, but also increases in union labor shortages

SKILLED WORKERS NEEDED: Contractors and labor representatives are optimistic about growth in 2017 but say they are facing growing union craft labor shortages, with the highest shortages (70 percent) in the construction industry.

Contractors, labor representatives and owner-clients in the union construction and maintenance industry are significantly more optimistic about growth opportunities in 2017 and beyond compared to last year, but they also report an increasing pervasiveness in union craft labor shortages. The key difference: some union crafts face greater labor shortfalls than others.

These are just a few findings of the 2017 Union Craft Labor Supply report, which was recently released by The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC), a national trade association for the union construction and maintenance industry. The report gives construction professionals an in-depth understanding of the current state of union labor supply in the construction and maintenance industry throughout the United States.

Highlights of the study include:


More than three quarters (78 percent) of all respondents said they expect the industry to grow by varying degrees. That percentage is up significantly from the 58 percent who expected overall growth in 2016. Growth was projected to be the strongest in the commercial/institutional sector in the Middle Atlantic and Southeast regions.

Labor remains slightly more optimistic about growth than contractors and owner-clients.

Over 86 percent of union representatives projected growth in 2017 compared to a combined 76 percent of contractor/subcontractors and owner/clients.

The utility sector was the most bearish on growth, forecasting a still respectful 67 percent increase.


Over half (57 percent) of all respondents said they had experienced a union craft labor shortage in 2016. This represents an increase of five percent when compared to 2015 and 2014.

Meanwhile, 43 percent of all respondents said that their union workforce had the appropriate number or a surplus of workers.

Union/labor respondents reported the lowest shortage rates (48 percent) and the highest surplus rates (18 percent).

Construction managers reported the highest shortage rates (70 percent). The evident disparity between Labor and management, while still significant (22 percent), has shrunk from last year’s report (34 percent).

In 2016, the manufacturing sector reported the largest shortage of union craft labor at 64 percent and the commercial/institutional and petroleum/natural gas/chemical sectors reported the “best” union labor supply.

Sixty-five percent of respondents (a 10 percent increase from 2015) said they experienced a shortage of carpenters and millwrights in 2016, the highest of the 14 building trades. They were followed by boilermakers (56 percent reported a shortage), electricians (54 percent) and iron workers (52 percent).

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