Construction companies struggle with bottlenecks when demand is high

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The Austin skyline continues to grow. The workers behind who make it possible are becoming scarce. Wage rates have risen in the industry to hire more people.

AUSTIN, Texas — Central Texas is facing a shortage of construction workers. As Austin attracts more businesses and people, there are fewer workers constructing homes and buildings.

Jeff Light, vice president of operations at Hoar Construction, said the skyline is getting bigger. There’s a lot of movement in the city and it’s been hard to keep up.

“We’re definitely in a boom,” Light said. “A lot of people describe it as a boom, but it’s a bit unprecedented. The city is growing faster than you could normally react to.”

For this reason, they cannot take on all projects.

“It creates a small imbalance that has some consequences,” Light said. “It drives up labor costs because people are willing to pay more for the work. It increases project duration because fewer people are working on projects.”

Tanner Potts, who we spoke to in December, works at Hoar Construction. He said they had to get creative because of the staff shortage.

“We have a lot of materials that come pre-manufactured now, so we have less manpower on the job,” Potts said. “We have many materials that arrive ready to be installed.”

They had bathrooms and exterior walls of a building constructed off-site. Pipes and electrical appliances were also prefabricated. This saved a lot of time and allowed them to work without the extra hands. They’ve also found that sometimes it’s more cost-effective to build things off-site.

Nevertheless, workers are still needed. Light said there’s no better time to start construction because companies are paying more money.

However, there is a downside when people come into the industry with little experience.

“The implication of this is that it tends to result in poorer production,” Light said. “Things don’t get built as fast as you would normally expect. And the quality can suffer because these people haven’t been doing it for a long time.”

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