Study Says Union Construction Jobs Expected to Grow in 2017

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The Association of Union Constructors has released its third-annual 2017 Union Craft Labor Supply report, the only union-specific study focusing on construction and maintenance.  According to the report, contractors, labor representatives and owner-clients in the union construction and maintenance industry are notably 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.

To develop the report, TAUC and the Construction Labor Research Council used a rigorous scientific methodology to analyze nearly 800 responses to a multi-question survey sent earlier this year to a cross-section of contractors, union representatives and owner-clients. In addition to overall findings, the study also includes numerous data cuts based on several demographics, including respondent categories, geographic regions and specific industries. Data are presented for each of 14 crafts individually, as well as aggregated, includes both actual staffing levels for 2015 and 2016 and projections for 2017.

Key findings of the study include:

Outlook More Optimistic for Growth

  • This year, more than three quarters (78%) of all respondents said they expect the industry to grow by varying degrees. That percentage is up significantly from the 58% 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% of union representatives projected growth in 2017 compared to a combined 76% of contractor/subcontractors and owner/clients.The Utility sector was the most bearish on growth, forecasting a still–respectful 67% increase.
  • In terms of geographic regions, 93% of respondents forecasted growth in the Middle Atlantic, while 84% saw growth in the Southeast.

Union Craft Labor Shortages Have Grown Since Last Year

  • Over half (57%) of all respondents said they had experienced a union craft labor shortage in 2016. This represents an increase of 5% when compared to 2015 and 2014. Meanwhile, 43% 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%) and the highest surplus rates (18%). Construction managers reported the highest shortage rates (70%). The evident disparity between labor and management, while still significant (22%), has shrunk from last year’s report (34%).
  • In 2016, the Manufacturing sector reported the largest shortage of union craft labor at 64% and the Commercial/Institutional and Petroleum/Natural Gas/Chemical sectors reported the “best” union labor supply.

“This year’s Labor Supply Survey report is second to none in its level of detail and analysis,” said TAUC Chief Executive Officer Steve Lindauer. “We listened to previous respondents, many of whom asked for more data. The result is an extremely comprehensive report that will help the entire tripartite community — contractors, labor and owner-clients — prepare for the challenges that await us in 2017 and beyond.”

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