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Where Are the Workers?

Remember the good old days when your biggest work worry was when you were going to receive that final payment for the job you just completed? Things have changed.


In October, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos tweeted a warning on Twitter, recommending to his followers that they “batten down the hatches.” Fellow billionaire Elon Musk seemed to be a little more optimistic with reports that Tesla had excellent demand for the fourth quarter—until a month later when he backtracked and said demand for Tesla was “a little harder” to come by, due in part to a potential recession in China and Europe. Then just last month, Bezos advised small businesses to avoid making large capital expenditures or acquisitions during this uncertain time.


What about the construction economy? On Nov. 14, began a story on material shortages and price increases with this sentence: “Plan for market conditions to get worse before they get better.” The next day, the Associated General Contractors of America distributed a press release that contained this information: “The producer price index for new nonresidential building construction—a measure of what a fixed group of contractors estimate they would charge to erect a specific set of nonresidential buildings—jumped 3.0% from September and 20.2% from October 2020.”


So, no matter where you live and where you get your news and economic information, you’re probably sensing a slowdown on the horizon. But let’s add one more problem to the list: the labor shortage. Your backlog may be solid, but the work won’t get done until you can find the people you need for the job.


In the article that begins on page 26, most of the AWCI member contractors we interviewed say they are experiencing a lack of workers. However, some say they have the workers, but those workers don’t have the necessary skills. What do you do? Our members have some suggestions. Things like respect, decent wages and a good work environment can lure new talent, but once you find them, you may have to invest in some training. You also may confront some obstacles (like labor brokers and job-hoppers), but you may have luck if you hire a recruiter or take part in local job fairs. This article offers several more things you can try, and it concludes with some interesting perspectives on industry trends being seeing in regard to finding qualified labor. I’d call this one a must-read.


Another must-read is the article starting on page 40. Members of an AWCI subcommittee on lath and plaster have published a white paper on stucco and drainage planes that was distributed to AWCI members last month, and now we would like to share it with you. The paper was written because the 2021 International Building Code was amended to include provisions on the requirement for a “drainage space or material” to be installed behind exterior cement plaster and in front of the also required water-resistive barrier. This paper provides information that delves into the specific code language and provides guidance on what it means to the contractor.


Finally, this issue contains our annual Corporate Profile section, where industry partners with full-page ads in this issue receive another full page to tell our readers their plans for 2023. Take a look!


In closing, I wish you all a safe, healthy and very happy holiday season. I look forward to working with you again next year.

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