Some industry sources have already reported a 10% increase in material prices because of the tariffs — 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. This is on top of the rise in material costs that contractors were already seeing.
Construction spending, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent report in April, was up only 0.1% from January 2018 to February 2018. Year-over-year spending rose by 3%. According to Anirban Basu, chief economist for the Associated Builders and Contractors, rising material prices are part of the equation, but spending is also being held back by a lack of qualified workers from field staff all the way to in-house positions like estimators.
Groups like the Associated General Contractors of America have long advocated for increased career and technical training programs to beef up the pipeline of new workers coming into the construction industry. While that’s a good start and a way to fill future positions, the industry is struggling to fill positions right now.
Some contractors have engaged recruiting firms to help them find superintendents, projects managers, estimators and other mid-management and technical field and office positions. Constantly engaged with the local labor force, these companies are often in the best position to find qualified and available workers.