A Solution for the Construction Labor Shortage

Solution for the Construction Labor Shortage

For years now, the labor shortage in construction has continued. While every firm may have some understanding of the current lack of skilled labor, the problem is likely much deeper than it is often thought to be. To be precise: the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC of America) issued a press release claiming that 83% of contractors report having difficulty finding enough qualified skilled labor to meet demandWith such a drastic disparity in the supply of labor and what is actually needed to complete projects, it is no wonder that builders and contractors are having more and more trouble completing projects and selling homes.

The cause of the skilled labor shortage is widely thought to be the 2008 recession, wherein an estimated 2 million qualified construction workers were laid off. Rather than waiting for the economy to rebound and for the jobs to return, many re-skilled while many more simply retired and left the labor pool altogether. While unemployment remains high, with real unemployment (U-6) in the United States at an incredible 10%, those job-seekers who might hope to take the place of these retirees simply lack the same qualifications that their predecessors held. As construction firms can only hire and train so many workers at a time, the industry is finding itself with an aging workforce of an increasingly lower average skill level.

This shortage poses problems not only for construction firms and the development sector at large, but also the US economy which is still hoping to return to pre-crash levels of unemployment and growth. There are many initiatives that have achieved widespread support, such as federal funding for apprenticeships and technical education through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), but such programs are, at best, medium-term solutions. For firms looking to build now, more immediate solutions are needed: the amount of labor needed for a project must be brought to a minimum if it is to be completed in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

Easier to Install Products Saves Labor

One rather successful strategy that has been circulating is for project leads to be conscious of the products which are chosen to be installed in a building. The essential problem is that unskilled labor is plentiful, while skilled labor is scarce, and so firms are increasingly moving to use ready-made and easily installed products as often as possible in order to skew the project’s labor requirements away from skilled work.

One example is in choosing an air and moisture barrier that requires less skill and experience to install.  Building wraps and fluid applied barriers require a more experienced installer and attention to detail. Post installation inspections can frequently require building wraps to be repaired.

Using a fully adhered air and moisture barrier, such as DELTA®-VENT SA, is much simpler to install correctly.  This means the contractor can use less experienced labor and still have a high quality installation. In addition to installing easier, a fully adhered barrier, like DELTA®-VENT SA, offers superior performance than many other types of barriers.

Though such products may cost the contractor more than those which require more installation time or require a particular skill to install, labor is simply no longer the cheapest commodity in the construction process. The optimal resource allocation strategy is no longer cost-optimization on materials, but, rather, the maximum utilization of skilled workers for skilled work.

In the end it is going to be up to each builder and contractor to devise a strategy that helps them ride out the labor shortage in construction. It will end, but in the meantime new thinking will be necessary to ensure the timely completion of projects.


Dörken delivers innovative, high-performance air and moisture barriers for commercial and residential construction sold under the DELTA® brand name. A North American manufacturer based out of Beamsville, Ontario, Dörken Products, Inc. is a subsidiary of Ewald Dörken AG, a leading European developer and manufacturer of waterproofing and drainage products sold worldwide. Dörken is known for delivering premium products while providing educational programs and full technical support. For more information, call 1-888-4DELTA4 (433-5824) or visit www.dorken.com.