Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida construction industry hunting for skilled workers in 2014

The construction market in Florida is improving as contractors search for more workers to complete more jobs, but a lack of skilled workers and professionals may slow the rate of resurgence.

Getty Images (2013)

The construction market in Florida is improving as contractors search for more workers to complete more jobs, but a lack of skilled workers and professionals may slow the rate of resurgence.

Florida's construction industry is ramping up for a strong year of hiring in 2014 — if it can find the skilled workers it needs.

That's according to an annual survey released Tuesday by the trade group Associated General Contractors of America.

Last year, 46 percent of surveyed Florida construction companies added workers and 31 percent laid off workers.

Looking ahead, one-third of the companies said they planned to add workers and two-thirds forecast no change. None of the companies projected layoffs.

The sentiment was the same across the country. Forty-one percent of firms that did not change staff levels last year report they plan to start expanding payrolls in 2014, while only 2 percent plan on making layoffs.

"Contractors are more optimistic about 2014 than they have been in a long time," said Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the association. "While the industry has a long way to go before it returns to the employment and activity levels it experienced in the middle of the last decade, conditions are heading in the right direction."

Instead of market conditions, contractors worry about rising costs, more government regulation and a lack of skilled workers.

Florida's construction industry was hit harder than any other during the Great Recession, with a 700,000-strong workforce cut in half. In 2012, Tampa Bay had the dubious distinction of losing more construction jobs year-over-year than any other metro region in the country.

But construction has since rebounded, playing a strong role in pushing down Florida's unemployment rate. Over the past year, the state has added more than 24,000 construction jobs, a 7 percent increase.

Now contractors have a different problem.

In a conference call Tuesday morning, contractors from across the country echoed concerns about finding skilled workers. Florida was no different.

Sixty-nine percent of surveyed contractors said they expect it to become more difficult to find and hire skilled craft workers this year while 46 percent anticipated it will become harder to find and hire professional workers.

Hardest craft worker positions to fill: pipefitters and welders, followed by bricklayers. Hardest professional jobs to fill: project managers and engineers.

Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the construction association, said Florida's rebound has been a mixed bag. Demand in the private sector is accelerating: office, retail, schools, lodging, warehouse and even manufacturing to some extent. But there was relative pessimism for demand for new public buildings, the power industry, water/sewer and highway construction.

Moreover, about 87 percent of Florida's contractors plan to lease new equipment instead of buying, indicating trepidation over how long the resurgence will last. "They're hedging their bets a little bit," Turmail said.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8242.

Florida construction industry hunting for skilled workers in 2014 01/21/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 7:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]