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Construction companies see difficulty in finding skilled labor

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 7:02 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -Nebraska currently has the lowest employment rate in the country at 2.9%. That’s not always good news for people looking for help; a skilled labor shortage is impacting the construction industry across the nation, including here in Lincoln.

In the 2021 Construction Outlook Survey by the Associated General Contractors, 56% of respondents said they are having a hard time filling some or all positions. One Lincoln construction company said they’ve been seeing a decline since the 2008 recession.

“I don’t have enough staff,” said Tony Van Horn, Owner of Bonafide Construction.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor reported the construction industry needs 150,000 new workers right now.

“I haven’t really been able to get anybody hired that’s been worth it,” said Van Horn.

Construction projects did not slow down because of the pandemic. Both Bonafide Construction and Kingery Construction Company of Lincoln said they’re having a busy year.

“We’ve had more work going on, and the unemployment is so low, it’s hard to find those qualified workers,” said Rod Berens, the president of Kingery Construction.

The same AGC survey said over 30% of companies expect there will be no change in the difficulty to hire. And nearly 50% expect it to be harder than last year to hire; dire straits for an industry that’s seen skilled labor decline for years.

“We haven’t seen a resurgence back into the construction industry to replenish not only the people that left but also the increase,” said Berens. “A lot of that has to do with interest rates being low.”

Lack of skilled workers spells delays for projects too. Van Horn said that jobs at build sites follow a specific order. For example, if there is no electrician, none of the jobs that rely on the electrician can move forward.

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