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Report: Idaho construction wages are rising in response to worker shortage

Teya Vitu//September 6, 2018

Report: Idaho construction wages are rising in response to worker shortage

Teya Vitu//September 6, 2018

Construction workers at Idaho National Laboratory. A report from the Associated General Contractors of America says 81 percent of Idaho companies who responded to a survey reported they will hire additional craft workers in the coming year. Photo courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory.

A national survey of construction companies reveals that Idaho employers are raising wages to attract more workers.

The Associated General Contractors of America in a June-July-August survey of more than 2,500 construction companies determined 60 percent of construction companies said hiring laborers was more difficult this year than the prior year. In Idaho, the number was 41 percent.

Idaho’s 29 respondents also said 81 percent of companies expect to hire additional craft personnel in the coming year with the nationwide number 76 percent. But Idaho trailed the country with expected hirings in the coming year of hourly office, salaried field and salaried office personnel.

The survey showed only 36 percent of Idaho construction companies lost employees to other construction firms, while 51 percent of national construction companies lost workers to competitors.

Idaho had a higher proportion of companies increasing hourly craft wages (67 percent to U.S. average 62 percent), providing incentives and bonuses (33 to 25 percent) and increased benefits (33 to 24 percent).

“Idaho construction companies are increasing salaries and benefits,” said Wayne Hammon, executive director of Idaho AGC, and affiliate of AGC of America. “This makes a career in construction an even more attractive alternative to working in a low-wage job in another field. As we know, Idaho has too many people trapped in these jobs. Now is the time to consider upgrading from a dead-end job to a construction career.

AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson spoke in similar terms in an Aug. 29 media teleconference as the trade organization attempts to convince younger generations that “you get to use cool tools” in the construction sector. Construction executives in Oregon and Washington noted the recent concerted effort to market the industry on social media with Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“At career days, we can talk to students for 10 or 15 minutes at most,” said Steve Malaney, president of P&C Construction in Portland. “We need to educate the educators. We have educator externships. Teachers get a stipend to spend two weeks within the industry.”

Idaho lags behind in creating qualified workers. Nationally, 48 percent of construction companies say they are engaged with career-building programs in high school and colleges while only 19 percent of Idaho survey respondents said so. Nationally, 27 percent said they are engaged with government workforce development or unemployment agencies while only 19 percent in Idaho are.

“We still have work to do,” Hammon said. “Finding people with the skills necessary to build Idaho’s future remains a challenge. The Idaho AGC, our member companies, and the state continue to work to address these needs.”

Idaho ranked No. 16 in construction job gains in July with a 5.3 percent increase or 2,400 new jobs since the prior July, according to AGC.

Couer d’Alene was the top player among Idaho metropolitan areas with a 9 percent increase in construction jobs, ranking No. 46 out of 334 metropolitan areas. Boise and Idaho Falls each ranked No. 89 with 7 percent increases with Lewiston at No. 117 with a 6 percent gain and Pocatello ranked No. 282 with no gain or loss.

“A vast majority of Idaho construction companies reported that they are expanding their workforces,” Hammon said. “Idaho continues to enjoy growth and most indicators show that this will continue for the foreseeable future.”