Labor and material shortages continue to bedevil builders even as the COVID-19 pandemic eases, to the point that some projects had to be delayed or were finished later than planned.
“We still have just as many issues as we had in the middle of COVID,” said to Kirt Gilliland, a senior vice president of JLL in San Diego.
Developers are doing everything they can to keep up morale from ordering popsicles to hand out on the jobsite and providing free pizza lunches to adding extra portable toilets, Gilliland said.
“We’ve got several large projects where we’re seeing shortages of manpower across all trades,” Gilliland said. “If we’re behind schedule, we can’t just call a subcontractor and say, ‘Hey, send us five more guys’ because they don’t have five more guys.”
In the past, when projects fell behind, subcontractors would work overtime to catch up.
That’s no longer an option, Gilliland said.
“Everybody’s been working so hard for so long it’s really hard to get people to work overtime anymore,” Gilliland said.
Nationally, construction workforce shortages are affecting nearly all construction firms, “undermining the industry’s ability to complete projects on time and on schedule,” according to the results of a workforce survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGA) and Autodesk.
“Construction workforce shortages are severe and having a significant impact on construction firms of all types, all sizes and all labor arrangements,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.
“These workforce shortages are compounding the challenges firms are having with supply chain disruptions that are inflating the cost of construction materials and making delivery schedules and product availability uncertain,” Simonson said.
In California, 59% of the companies surveyed by the AGA reported that projects that they were working on had to be canceled or scaled back because of rising costs and 85% reported that they had unfilled jobs.
Every company surveyed by AGA reported that they had unfilled jobs for electricians, mechanics, millwrights, pipe layers, plumbers, roofers and even traffic control workers.
Getting materials and products also is an ongoing challenge.
“We’ve had supply change issues on every single one of our projects. It’s doors, its light fixtures, its mechanical equipment, its electric switch gear – glass is one of the most recent ones. We’ve seen huge increases in the price of glass recently,” Gilliland said.
To compensate, Gilliland said he orders those products months before they’re needed and even before projects have been permitted.
In one instance, he said he’s already ordering equipment for a 48,000-square-foot life science project “and we won’t submit for a permit until November, and we won’t start construction until January.”
Gilliland said it’s impossible to say when the situation will change.
“We all hope that it’s going to be something short term related to COVID,” Gilliland said.