The recently released March Unemployment Numbers are a good sign for the industry, but they also indicate that skilled workers will be harder to find than in recent years. At 5.5% unemployment, the number of job-seekers nationwide is now slightly below average. Drilling down, the Construction Industry Private Wage and Salary Workers unemployment rate of 9.5% is higher than the national average, but it’s also that segment’s lowest March number since 2007. And it’s a far cry lower than the devastating 24.9% unemployment of 2010.
For employers in the construction industry this means that quality workers will be at a premium, while electricians on the hunt for work should be able to find employment more easily than in recent years.
Whether you’re actively searching for help or just want to test the waters, here are a few tips to keep in mind during the height of hiring season.
The Evolution of Job Boards
Thanks to the Internet, there is no shortage of places to seek jobs or find workers. While there are always the old standbys of newspapers, Monster, and Craigslist, there are also new ways to look for employment online.
Social media has fast become a way for people to connect with potential employees, and Twitter hashtags and Facebook groups now act as de facto boards for hiring and information trading. Workers active on these sites also demonstrate some technological savvy that might indicate a better aptitude for adapting to your company’s proprietary systems.
Referrals Still Rule
On the opposite end of the technology spectrum, the classic “I know a guy” referrals are still the bread and butter of many contractor hires. Employers like to have a little inside info on their potential employees, and often don’t hesitate to pass names along to friendly competitors if they know someone who needs work.
Activity in local and national contractors’ associations can open up channels of communication with other trades, some of whom might know talented workers looking for new opportunities.
When good workers are in scarce supply, competition increases. Construction’s seasonal nature means that downtime between jobs is more common than in other industries, but many employers still use the rule-of-thumb that the ideal candidate is someone who already has a job.
If you’re considering making an offer to someone who is already employed, search out the low-hanging fruit. Look for someone who is skilled but under-appreciated at their current position. Whether it’s a production worker ready to step up to be a crew leader or a salesperson chaffing under an ungainly commission structure, these workers can often be brought in with the promise of greener pastures rather than hefty pay increase.
On the flipside, if you have employees who you’re worried about losing, be proactive! Let them know you value their work, and that you want them to stick around. If they do get a job offer, make sure you’ll have a chance to match it before they turn in their notice.
Whether you are trying to hire or retain an employee, sooner or later you’ll need to address the question of pay. Worker salaries are controlled by supply and demand, just like everything else. With the job numbers trending the way they are, be mentally prepared to pay more for quality employees than in previous years.
However, if your cash flow is tight and you find yourself in a bidding war that you can’t win, give some thought to the intangibles that might appeal to that worker. Stability, commute distance, perks like a company vehicle or health benefits, and quality co-workers are all selling points. Sometimes simply making someone feel valued can tip their opinion your way.
If you’re on the fence about whether to bring on a new hire, keep in mind that this might be the best time to do so. Construction unemployment historically dips another 15% in April, and will likely continue in that direction through the Fall season.
With over a decade of construction experience, Dan Stout writes articles that help demystify the industry for both contractors and customers. Visit him at www.DanStout.com.