Survey: 76% of Austin Area Construction Firms Say It is Difficult to Find Hourly Craft Workers

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Following a recent report that some immigrants have avoided construction jobsites out of fear that they’ll be deported, the AGC in Austin decided to conduct a survey aimed at determining whether recent immigration enforcement actions by the Trump Administration have had a real impact on the workforce.

Here are some major takeaways from the survey:

76% of local commercial construction industry having hard time finding hourly craft workers, according to the survey. This is almost identical to the statewide results of 74% reported in an AGC of America survey last year.

40% responded that they’ve been having trouble for years finding workers, regardless of the recent government policy changes regarding illegal immigration. Only 19% responded that the recent changes are having SOME or a MAJOR impact on their work. 17% say it’s too early to tell. 28% say that the often-cited statistic that “50% of construction workers in Texas are undocumented” is either too low or about right. 22% say it depends on type of work and trades involved. 21% said they don’t know.

“With 76% of the responders indicating they are having a hard time finding hourly craft workers, it’s very clear that the Central Texas construction industry is currently, and has been for years, suffering from a workforce shortage,” said Phil Thoden, President of the Austin AGC.

“Our local statistic is even higher than the 74% reported in a 2016 AGC of America survey of Texas firms,” he said. “Meanwhile, our growing community is placing unprecedented demand on the industry for construction projects in all markets - housing, buildings, roads and other infrastructure - which further stresses the already limited workforce available and results in higher pricing and longer schedules.”

While the immigrant workforce in the local construction industry is clearly significant, 40% of survey responders indicate they’ve been having trouble for years finding workers, regardless of the recent government policy changes regarding illegal immigration,” Thoden said, adding that “only 19% responded that the recent changes are having SOME or a MAJOR impact on their work and 17% say its’ too early to tell.”

Whatever the actual percentage is when it comes to the amount of undocumented people in the Texas construction workforce, Thoden said immigration reform including legal status is key.

“Looking over comments submitted, it seems that the percentage of undocumented workers varies depending on work performed and owner requirements,” Thoden said.

“For example, contractors working on Federally funded projects are required to E-Verify the workforce, a process that effectively weeds out any undocumented workers,” he said. “Regardless of what individual contractors surmise about the percentage of undocumented workers, it clear that most employers want to see a clear pathway established for more immigrants to attain some form of legal working status, in order that the industry can keep up with our community’s demand for construction products,” Thoden said.

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