May 15, 2019
Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry

Commercial Construction Survey Shows 70 Percent of Contractors Struggling to Meet Project Deadlines


Results from the Q1 2019 USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index indicate the labor shortage continues to pose major challenges to the industry, causing firms to ask skilled workers to do more work (81 percent), struggle to meet deadlines (70 percent), increase costs for new work (63 percent) and reject new projects (40 percent).  

As the industry fights to solve the labor shortage, the latest survey suggests a contributing factor could be negative perceptions of construction careers by young workers, leading to fewer workers seeking to enter the industry.

When asked about the biggest myths about working in the commercial building industry, contractors cited the perception that construction jobs are all “dirty” jobs (61 percent), construction work requires only brute strength (55 percent) and construction is just a “job” rather than a career (52 percent). Yet, contractors note good pay, opportunities for advancement, and the ability to learn new skills on the job as the best reasons to pursue a career in construction.

Contractors agree that the best way to increase the skilled workforce in U.S. construction is to increase enrollment in technical schools and vocational training. A better reputation for compensation, apprenticeship programs and opportunities for advancement were also cited as ways to recruit more workers—particularly those under the age of 30—into commercial construction.

To retain employees, 55 percent of contractors believe there should be more opportunities for advancement, in addition to increased employee engagement and more on-the-job training. The growing role of technology on the job site was also cited as a means to attract the next generation of workers to the construction workforce.

Overall, the Q1 composite score of 72 shows a healthy market though contractors may be slightly more cautious about the health of the commercial construction industry, evidenced by a drop in the three leading indicators—backlog, new business and revenue forecasts. The survey was fielded in January during the federal government shutdown, so concerns about economic stability and future growth were likely more top-of-mind than in previous surveys. However, the data about industry perceptions should still be troubling to anyone looking to solve the prevailing labor shortage.

"The first quarter findings suggest that the fundamentals of the construction industry remain strong, but to sustain future growth, it is clear that we need bipartisan policy solutions from Washington that promote trade, reform our immigration system, and better prepare America’s workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Neil Bradley, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president and chief policy officer.

For information about the results from the three key drivers—backlog, new business confidence and revenue—click here for access to the full Q1 Report.


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Founded in 1918, AWCI is a non-profit trade association representing 2,000 contractors, suppliers, dealers and manufacturers in the wall and ceiling industry.

The mission of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry is to provide services and undertake activities that enhance the members ability to operate a successful business.