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Construction worker shortage raises safety concerns

In the wake of the 2008 great recession, the majority of construction projects throughout New York City and across the U.S. were put on indefinite hold. Fast forward to 2015 and cities across the U.S. are experiencing a building boom as demand for housing and commercial properties has increased substantially.

In fact, the U.S. construction industry reports that so far in 2015, spending for residential housing has increased by more than 11 percent and to nearly 10 percent for the commercial construction industry. While a strengthened and growing economy means there’s no shortage of home buyers and commercial lessors, what is in short supply are the skilled and experienced construction workers needed to build new housing and commercial developments.

A July survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors revealed that “86 percent of commercials builders said they were finding it difficult to fill hourly or salaried positions.” The apparent shortage of skilled and experienced construction workers is the result of years of a stagnant construction market which forced many construction workers to find jobs in other industries.

In an effort to lure those workers back and to attract young new workers, so far this year, construction employers have increased hourly pay rates by 2.6 percent. Despite this, some within the commercial construction industry report having to rely on “hiring fewer skilled workers and more supervisors to oversee them.” Additionally, some construction firms are turning to technology and using GPS systems and drones in an effort to “do more with fewer workers.”

These types of admissions raise legitimate concerns about the safety of construction workers, construction sites and of the buildings that these workers are constructing. In New York City, these concerns are very real and warranted as “construction-related injuries rose by 34 percent, from 211 in Fiscal Year 2014 to 283 in F.Y. 2015.”

Source: Forbes, “There’s a dire shortage of workers in this growing industry,” Claire Zillman, Aug. 27, 2015

Capital New York, “Construction injuries jumped 34 percent in a year, data shows,” Sally Goldenberg, Aug. 27, 2015

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