Minnesota construction firms likely need to boost pay, reduce expectations to find enough workers to meet demand

Updated May 28, 2014

shutterstock_55365469Construction is Minnesota’s fastest growing industry, and as demand continues to pile up, construction firms there are having a hard time finding enough skilled workers. And one labor analyst suggests they might need to make some serious changes to fill those vacancies.

According to a report from Minnesota Public Radio, the skilled trades in Minnesota lost 30,000 jobs during the recession. And like in several other states around the country, many of those workers have retired or moved on to more stable or better-paying industries.

Complicating matters is that pay rates in Minnesota fell during the recession because contractors could hire desperate workers for less. MPR reports that at Castle Building and Remodeling, a non-union firm in Minneapolis, the average pay rate for carpenters fell from $27 per hour to $23 per hour and has only regained half the lost ground since recession ended. Other non-union firms reported similar decreases in pay rates.

Steve Hine, a head labor market analyst in Minnesota, says it’s a workers’ market now and suggests contractors not only boost wages but lower their skill and experience requirements while hiring.

“We have noticed that the experience levels is often considerably higher than it might need to be, definitely higher than it has been in the past,” Hine told MPR. “And employers are going to have to consider relaxing some of the requirements they have, which they might’ve been much more successful in meeting four or five years ago when it was more of a buyer’s market.”