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Vaccine Hesitancy Contributes to Construction Labor Shortage

Vaccine Hesitancy Contributes to Construction Labor Shortage
Photo by Ümit Yıldırım on Unsplash

A long-term shortage of construction workers that has contributed to delays in commercial development is being exacerbated by a vaccine hesitancy among the workers, according to a recent survey.

The survey, by the Silver Spring, Md.-based Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), found that only 56.7% of construction workers were vaccinated, compared to 81.6% of all other workers. The data comes from a daily online survey distributed to Facebook users by the Delphi Group at Carnegie Melon University through a collaboration with Facebook.

The CPWR survey, dated July 18, found that 39% of construction workers are hesitant to get vaccinated, compared to 16 percent of workers in all other occupations. More than half (54%) of construction workers who are hesitant to get the vaccine cite distrust of vaccines and government as reasons.

The survey shows a wide variation in construction workers by state. States with the lowest percentage of vaccinated construction workers are Tennessee (40.3%) and Louisiana (41.5%), with Florida (52.5%) and Texas (53.6%) also near the bottom. States with the highest rate of vaccinated construction workers are California (71.7%), Washington state (70.7%) and New York (69.4%).

Another industry trade group, the Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), said that the “rapidly spreading Delta variant of COVID-19 and accompanying hospitalizations pose several threats to construction,” in part due to low vaccination rates among craft workers. A weekly report emailed by the AGC said that the disparity in vaccination rates suggests that construction firms may have difficulty fielding a healthy workforce and attracting workers, and that may be exacerbated as governments and private owners increasingly impose vaccination and testing mandates.

“In addition, owners may put projects on hold as businesses and individuals scale back or defer reopening, travel and other activity,” the AGC report said. “And production of materials and deliveries may slow further if more workers become ill or choose to avoid jobsites that require close contact.”

Commercial construction projects have been slowed in recent years by many factors, including a shortage of skilled construction workers. Younger workers are not joining the industry in sufficient number to replace those that are retiring, while the ranks have also been thinned by reduced immigration.

The AGC report noted that there were 339,000 construction job openings as of the end of June, up 42% year-over-year and the highest number in the 21-year history of the data series, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the 358,000 construction hires in June were down 31% year-over-year and 171,000 quits were up 23% year-over-year, per BLS.

“Together, the record-high openings and decline in layoffs suggest the drop in hiring reflects the difficulty contractors are experiencing in filling positions, rather than a decreased demand for workers,” the AGC report said.

About the author

Paul Fiorilla

Paul Fiorilla has more than 25 years of experience as a researcher and writer in the commercial real estate markets. He previously served as a vice president of research at Prudential Real Estate Investors in Madison, N.J., where he oversaw publishing of outlooks and thought leadership research. Before that, he covered real estate capital markets and CMBS at Commercial Mortgage Alert.

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