Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Off-Site Construction Faces Worsening Labor Shortage

COVID-19 came onto the scene a little over a year ago and the response to it was the closing of many industries, including construction, for a period of time. Like water builds up behind a dam, new projects and single-family home orders began backing up at the factories waiting for them to reopen.

When they finally did begin reopening, most didn’t see a return to anything resembling normal. Production workers refused to return to their jobs simply because they were afraid of catching COVID-19, While that was a legitimate point at the same time, the state and Federal governments began pouring billions into unemployment and Stimulus packages meant to help workers. Instead, it became worth more to many employees to simply stay home.

Here we are a year later and though employment and payroll growth are both trending upward, they still remain worse than before Covid hit. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released last week showed that while the unemployment rate decreased in 20 states last month, it just held steady in the other 30. It still has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Employers are reporting an unprecedented level of difficulty in finding workers to hire. Walmart, Costco, Uber and an array of other major companies are hiking benefits in an effort to attract applicants. One Florida McDonald’s is even offering people $50 just to show up to a job interview — and is still struggling to get people in the door.

One has to wonder where all those people that left the off-site construction industry went as every single factory is pleading for people to work for them. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time with factory orders skyrocketing, demand for affordable housing increasing and new interest in modular from developers and investors.

If this labor shortage persists, it will have huge implications for the economy in 2021 and beyond and could act as a brake on growth and cause unnecessary business failures, long lines at remaining businesses, and rising prices.”

The off-site construction industry has to begin finding answers for workers getting added financial cushions provided by expanded unemployment insurance and stimulus payments, as well as fears of contracting Covid and child care obligations, low wages and more workers contemplating career changes.

Others Are Recruiting Our Skilled Labor

And if that isn’t enough to combat, the Great American Build, an effort by funded union groups, is trying hard to entice your former and future skilled labor away from traditional construction and into the energy industry.

A statement from their website:

“This is our moment to build back better: to recover from COVID-19 and get millions of people back to work in new, clean energy union jobs”

It’s time for our industry to wake up and begin addressing this labor issue, not on a factory by factory basis, but rather as a cohesive effort by an entire industry. Unfortunately, we can’t seem to agree on even small changes to our industry and sitting down and planning an industry-wide program to recruit, train and retain American workers in our factories will, unfortunately, always be a pipe dream.

Gary Fleisher is the Managing Director and contributor to the Modcoach Network and its affiliated blogs.  Email at modcoach@gmail.com

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