Arizona Doesn’t Have Enough Construction Workers; Contractors Increase Wages


Construction workers in Arizona should ask for a raise, if they haven’t already.

The state and metro Phoenix don’t have enough carpenters, electricians, framers, painters and plumbers, according to a new study from the Associated General Contractors of America.

About 75 percent of the Arizona contractors polled say they are having a “hard time” filling hourly construction jobs.

That’s slightly higher than the 70 percent of U.S. contractors acknowledging the same problem, said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer for the contractor trade group.

The median hourly wage for construction workers in metro Phoenix is $19.50, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Contractor supervisors typically earn the most —$29 an hour. Workers helping electricians and plumbers can earn the least — $13.

Arizona’s construction industry lost more than 200,000 jobs during the housing crash. Many of those workers went to other states to find jobs and haven’t returned.

The Valley’s homebuilding market is still recovering from the crash, when new-home construction fell from more than 60,000 houses in 2006 to fewer than 10,000 in 2009.

This year, at least 19,000 new houses are expected to go up in the Phoenix area.

About 74 percent of the Arizona contractors polled said they expect to hire more construction workers this year. And 68 percent say they have already increased pay for those jobs, but did not provide amounts.

The Valley’s construction labor shortage has led to contractors offering cash bonuses to draw workers away from competitors, say homebuilders.

Now, there are about 111,000 construction workers employed in Arizona, up 4 percent from last year, according to the federal government.

Sean Ray, workforce development manager for Phoenix-based Sundt Construction, said his company is working with community colleges to create more internships and apprenticeships to draw more workers.

About 1,600 U.S. contractors were surveyed for the research. The Associated General Contractors didn’t break out how many of those firms were from Arizona.



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