Is There Really a Labor Shortage in the Trades?

Is there really a labor shortage in the trades? Yes, the USA labor shortage is not a myth but a painful reality for many employers. We’ve been discussing it at Skillwork frequently on our blog and podcast, The Skillwork Forum




However, one question we don’t have an answer to is, “How long will the labor shortage last?” Until more people see the trades as an honorable, valuable vocation, the gap between the number of trade jobs available and the skilled workers willing to fill them will continue to grow.

In this blog, we explore some key points related to the USA labor shortage:

  • What is a labor shortage?
  • Why is the labor shortage so bad in the trades?
  • 3 causes of the labor shortage
  • A solution to the skilled worker shortage for employers

Let’s begin by defining our terms.

What Is a Labor Shortage?

A labor shortage occurs when the demand for workers in a particular occupation is greater than the supply of workers who are qualified, able, and willing to do that job. If the prevailing wage or salary isn’t satisfactory, workers will be less inclined to take the job, which is why one of the effects of a labor shortage is rising wages.

Why Is the Labor Shortage So Bad In the Trades?

Why is there a staffing shortage everywhere? It seems that multiple industries are suffering from the tight labor market. However, in this blog, we’ll focus exclusively on the USA labor shortage of tradesmen. Some may say the cause of the labor shortage was the pandemic. Covid-10 certainly exacerbated things, but it didn’t cause the shortage—it shined a light on the skilled worker shortage across all sectors.

Keep reading to learn three causes of the labor shortage and what you can do about it as an employer in the trades.


210505_Skillwork _TSWF_Ep_What is a good employee turnover rate__QG3

3 Causes of the Labor Shortage

Three causes of the labor shortage include retirement rates outpacing employment rates, people dismissing the skilled trades as a worthy career path, and an increase in construction jobs without an increase in construction workers.

Let’s dig into each of these causes to learn more.

1. Retirement Rates > Employment Rates

How bad is the labor shortage? Here are some numbers to put things into perspective:

Nearly 1 in 4 manufacturing workers are 55 or older, signaling a USA labor shortage for the nation’s fifth-largest employer. But manufacturing isn’t the only trade experiencing a skilled worker shortage. For every person that enters the trades, five retire. In short, there aren’t enough young people becoming tradesmen to replace the number of retiring Baby Boomers. 

210505_Skillwork _TSWF_Ep_What is a good employee turnover rate__QG2

2. Skilled Trades Stigma

In our opinion, the lack of tradesmen is primarily a popularity issue: people undervalue tradesmen. Today, we’re seeing the effects of devaluing the trades for the past 20 years. This skilled trade stigma has been ingrained in young minds for generations. Attending a vocational school or getting an alternative education is said to be a bad idea. “Work smarter, not harder” is the framed mantra in advisors’ offices. As a result, most students automatically resort to attending universities, even if that’s not what’s best for them.

3. New Construction Jobs

Another cause of the labor shortage that’s worsening things is that our economy continues to grow, creating a bigger gap between open jobs and available workers. Economic growth increases the demand for new buildings, roads, and other structures, which creates new jobs in construction. However, one positive effect of the labor shortage is that it’s driving up salaries for tradesmen. Bob Ernst, president of FBN Construction, said the USA labor shortage has forced him to increase salaries to retain qualified talent.

These are just a few of the top causes of the labor shortage in the trades, and we’ll continue to see ongoing effects of the labor shortage until something changes. “Why is the labor shortage so bad?” is a question many employers are asking, but more than that, they want a solution… 

210505_Skillwork _TSWF_Ep_What is a good employee turnover rate__QG1

A Solution to the Skilled Worker Shortage for Employers

Worker shortages have put tremendous strain on our economy. As a result, employers are simultaneously trying to retain and replace workers. However, for companies in the trades with a lack of employees, solutions are available.

At Skillwork, we believe working with a recruitment agency is the best way to find the right people for the job. When sourcing tradesmen, we use a proprietary 8-step vetting process to ensure employers only meet the most qualified candidates for the job. 

If you’re searching for tradesmen to fill vacant jobs, we can help fill them. With our experience and network within the trades, we can get you the people you need as soon as you need them. Talk with a recruiter today to learn how we can help you source qualified talent faster.

210505_Skillwork _TSWF_Ep_What is a good employee turnover rate__QG4

Talk to a Skillwork Recruiter


Leave a Comment