Record Low Unemployment Leads To Staffing Problems In Construction Trades

Matt Briscoe
Publisher/ Managing Editor
The Southside Light

Corpus Christi is certainly benefitting from what is an undoubtedly a solid economy. The record low-unemployment numbers in the area are also a welcome sight to just about everyone except the building construction trade.

It is not a new problem for Texas or the area. In fact, it has been a problem for years now both here at home and around the state. Building trade experts and contractors all say that there is too much work going on in the building and construction trades and by far not enough workers to do it. The real shortage they say is when it comes to professional trades such as carpenters, concrete workers, electricians and plumbers.

Area construction executives recently indicated that a variety of factors, including an age, political wrangling and a lack of interest in trades by the younger generations is placing a real strain on the construction workforce.

In March, the Construction industry added 5,100 jobs in Texas, while the annual growth rate increased 0.4 percentage points over the previous month to 3.9 percent.

That would seem like good news, but those 5,100 jobs were difficult to fill and only a very small percentage of those jobs came here to Corpus Christi.

In fact, many of those jobs went to places like Midland, Dallas and Abilene where wages are more comparable to the workload.

Labor shortages in the construction industry have existed in Corpus Christi for years and trade industry leaders have taken steps to bolster the future workforce through educational programs at the high school and college level. However, with area school districts focusing less on trades and emphasizing more on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, the future doesn’t look promising, experts say.

Even if Corpus Christi area school districts somehow figured a way to implement new trade programs, the solution would not be immediate and with the south side growing as fast as it is, industry leaders and company executives can’t afford to wait around.

What could take even longer is waiting on political leaders to create a legislative solution to the immigration problem, which is where the Texas construction trade has usually stemmed from.

So what can companies do? They can compete for workers by paying better wages than their competitors or finding new creative incentives to retain current employees and subcontractors through bonuses and perks—or they can deliver jobs late or with less quality workmanship.

But all in all, if a person who is skilled and trained in Corpus Christi really wants to work, they can or they do as their peers and go where labor rates are higher. It does seem that at least here and now, labor should be holding all of the cards when it comes to staffing trade jobs in Corpus Christi.


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