Employment challenges are not limited to our industry, but appear across all corners of the greater construction economy.

I am attending the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association’s ConcreteWorks 2018 in Washington, D.C., and after only one day here, our producer friends all answer the same way when I pose the question: “How is business?” While there is some complaining about weather, and how wet most of the country has been this year which has affected volumes, the biggest complaint by far continues to be the challenge of finding workers at all levels, not just drivers. In my last column, I wrote about the impact that current labor shortages are having on our industry, not to mention American industry as a whole. Now, the Department of Labor has issued a new report on the latest trend in employment, and it is disturbing:

People are quitting.

In a recent report, U.S. employers advertised the most jobs on record in July, but the number of workers quitting their jobs also hit a new all-time high. It seems that Americans are increasingly taking advantage of a tight labor market to find new, often higher-paying jobs. In the most recent reporting period, it seems that while the number of job openings rose 1.7% to 6.9 million, the most on record dating back to late 2000, the number of people quitting jumped 3% to 3.58 million, also a record. This is a striking number, as it means that for every two new job openings created, a position goes vacant due to an employee leaving. As a result, with a more dynamic job market where more people are quitting and finding new work, this trend can help fuel wage gains.

Workers who switch jobs are getting raises roughly one-third larger than those who remain it their jobs; one-third.

With the unemployment rate near an 18-year low of 3.9%, businesses are increasingly desperate to find workers. Even as the number of available jobs rose, overall hiring was essentially flat, the report showed. Still, last month employers added a healthy 201,000 jobs in August; openings rose in manufacturing, finance and insurance, and hotels and restaurants, but they fell in retail, education, and health. With the economy growing at a healthy clip and consumers spending freely, employers are optimistic about future demand and want to hire more. That appears to be finally pushing some employers to pay more, and therefore raising wages.

So the challenge for ready-mixed concrete producers is not just attracting new workers, but also retaining the workers that are currently employed. Our producer clients and friends tell us that “job-jumping” among drivers and employees at all levels has reached one of the highest levels in memory. The issue has become so acute, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association has created an all-new Workforce Committee to address the systemic issue in a sweeping way, hoping to introduce new approaches to attracting, training, and retaining employees at all levels.

I have reported in the past that employment challenges are not limited to our industry, but appear across all corners of the greater construction economy. Our challenge is to assure that producer customers can expect reliable delivery of quality concrete, regardless of their own employment challenges. As an industry, we need to work towards that goal.

 

Pierre Villere Pierre Villere

Pierre G. Villere has been a contributing editor for The Concrete Producer for over a decade, and serves as the President and Senior Managing Partner of Allen-Villere Partners, an investment banking firm with a national practice in the construction materials industry. He has a career spanning more than four decades, and volunteers his time to educating the industry through his regular articles and presentations. Contact Pierre via email.