IS THERE A LABOR SHORTAGE?

This article is the first in a series examining statistics to determine trends in Wyoming’s construction industry in an effort to help the public and lawmakers make better informed decisions regarding construction and to help construction companies with better predictions of when and how to ramp up, but by also helping to better evaluate Wyoming’s Construction Market.

Is there a labor shortage? In general, construction is an up and down industry, and nowhere else is that more evident than in Wyoming with our boom and bust economics. But just how much boom and bust is Wyoming’s construction industry? And is there anything we can do to help even out the highs and lows?

When we look at the numbers, we can see that besides a brief setback in 2009-2010, Wyoming’s labor force has steadily grown. Since 2000, Wyoming’s average monthly workforce has grown almost 30%, from 239,000 to 311,000 according to the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the outlook for continued growth in the Cowboy state is good to very good.

Employment in Wyoming’s Construction Industry has not fared quite as well. In the years 2000 to 2004, Wyoming construction employment remained relatively stable, employing an average of 19,000 people total, with seasonal variations. Building contractors and specialty contractors employed an average of just fewer than 4,500 and just under 10,000 respectively.

By 2005, construction employment had grown modestly to an average of 20,730 total, with building contractors employing 4390, and specialty contractors employing 10,500.

Total construction employment grew by an average of almost 12% in the years between 2000 and 2005, roughly 2% a year.

2006 saw a jump to almost 24,000 average total construction employees in the state, with 4,870 employed in building construction and 11,780 employed in specialty trades.

By 2008, Wyoming construction was employing an average total of 28,113 in construction with 4,900 in building construction and 13,710 in specialty trades.

Total construction employment grew nearly 18% between 2006 and 2008, an average of 6% a year, or 3x the rate it was growing during the previous six years. Building construction grew less than 1% during this timeframe, but specialty trades grew over 16%.

In 2013, Wyoming employed an average of 21,570 total construction employees, a decline of over 23% since 2008. Building trades employed an average of 3,900 employees, down over 20% from 2008 levels and specialty contractors employed an average of 11,920, down over 13% from 2008 levels.

At the height of the last building boom, in August of 2008, Wyoming employed 30,900 people in construction, building construction employed 5,200, and specialty trades employed 15,000. As of May, 2014, there were 21,620 total building construction employees in Wyoming , 3,820 in building construction and 11,800 in specialty trades. Numbers which are up from the all time 2010 lows, but significantly lower than 2008 levels.

The construction market has significantly picked up in the first half of 2014, but the industry is certainly still lagging in employees.

Anyone who has spent any time in Wyoming’s construction industry can tell you that Wyoming is almost always in a labor shortage, we always have a hard time finding employees with good work ethics and solid skills. But sometimes, we have a hard time finding anybody to fill any position.

In part two of this series we will begin to investigate just how much the construction market in Wyoming has picked up, where it has been, and where it may be a few years from now.

Data for this article was compiled from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services: http://doe.state.wy.us/lmi/CES/TOC.HTM as well as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.wy.htm