American contractors are getting their shovels ready for the incoming Trump administration and they plan to boost payrolls to take on new projects.
Some 3 out of 4 U.S. construction firms expect to increase head count this year, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate.
The bullish outlook is apparently based on high hopes that Donald Trump will make good on campaign promises to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending on new infrastructure projects.
But with the labor markets tight in many parts of the country, contractors report they’re having a hard time finding people to fill those new jobs.
That means they expect to have to boost wages to find and keep qualified workers; half said they’ve raised base pay to fill openings; a third are paying incentives or other bonuses.
“Contractors remain quite concerned about labor shortages, tight margins and growing costs,” the association’s chief economist, Ken Simonson, said in a statement. “In particular, as additional older workers reach retirement age, firms will struggle to find qualified workers to replace them.”
About three-quarters of those surveyed said they expect labor markets to remain tight — or get worse — this year.
With qualified workers hard to find, half of the contracting firms who responded said they’re been investing more in training workers.
Among the states with large survey sample sizes, firms in Massachusetts were most upbeat; some 94 percent plan to expand their payrolls this year. Only 45 percent of firms plan to boost payrolls in Illinois, where state lawmakers are struggling with ongoing budget shortfalls
The survey, conducted after the presidential election, included responses from some 1,300 construction firms from 49 states and the District of Columbia.
-John W. Schoen