Saturday, July 21, 2018
Business

Tampa Bay area construction firms pessimistic about availability of workers

With construction booming and Hurricane Irma repair work abundant, the Tampa Bay area’s crunch for skilled labor is getting crunchier.

The latest sign of the shortage of available construction workers comes via a poll of Florida construction firms by the 21,000-member Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), a national construction industry trade association.

Done in the third quarter, the poll found contractors optimistic that over the next six months their sales would grow, as well as that their companies would increase hiring and expand investment in training.

But they were pessimistic about being able to fill open positions, the association reported. More than two-thirds of those polled said they expect filling positions to become harder over the next six months — remarkable, the association said, given how tight the market for the skilled trades already is.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: This spring, bay area contractors expected uptick in projects but scarce labor

A key reason: Hurricane rebuilding efforts are expected to create more competition for skilled labor in an already stretched market.

Because a lot of contractors respond to the survey, ABC says it’s possible to break out responses in four regions: Pinellas and Hillsborough; Jacksonville; Orlando, Kissimmee and Sanford; and Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Based on a "confidence index" calculated by the trade group, none of the areas is optimistic about the availability of needed workers, though the outlook is slightly brighter in the Tampa Bay area than in Miami or Orlando.

Florida remains among the nation’s most active construction markets, according to the ABC, ranking fifth among all states in terms of net new construction job creation. From October 2016 to the same month this year, the construction industry added 35,600 new jobs, the state reported last month. And with Florida’s unemployment rate at 3.6 percent, that’s not expected to change. A mere 2 percent of respondents expected their staffing levels would drop over the near term.

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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