Hurricane Ian recovery stretching short supply of construction workers

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Florida Construction News staff writer

Skilled workers are in high demand across parts of Florida to repair damage caused by Hurricane Ian, however, labor shortages could delay the rebuilding.

“Building reconstruction or replacement on an island may have to await reestablishment of a bridge or causeway,” Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America told ConstructionDive.com. “Building codes or seawalls may need revising. Owners must decide if the location and local economy still warrant living or operating a business in that structure, especially if insurance or other costs change.”

Florida and the entire U.S. have reported rising numbers of job openings and low numbers of available skilled laborers this fall, with 407,000 job openings in August, a 12.4% increase compared to August 2021, and 54,000 more than in July.

As a result, some non-essential projects could be delayed as the industry focus shifts to more urgent projects and hurricane recovery.

In Florida, the number of seasonally adjusted employed construction workers in Florida reached 593,800 in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up 3.3% from August 2021.

This week, Governor Ron DeSantis was in Fort Myers Beach to update efforts to identify and remove vessels and other debris from waterways and to expedite the removal of debris on private and commercial properties. He announced the approval of the FEMA Direct Temporary Housing Program for the counties hit hardest by Hurricane Ian, and a state-led housing program for Floridians that may not be eligible for the FEMA program.

Florida law allows general contractors to suspend the termination of existing building permits to pause existing jobs and focus on reconstruction.

However, according to Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast president Steve Cona, the current challenges are unprecedented.

In a report by Bisnow.com, Cona estimates Florida was already facing a shortage of 50,000 construction workers before the storm and could need 30,000 or more additional workers to complete rebuilding.

Part of the solution will be significant funding and Cona predicts wage increases for construction workers, “because there’s only so many folks to go around.”

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