Damage caused by Hurricane Ian’s massive storm surge, flooding and winds will require skilled workers to help the state of Florida rebuild. Staffing the projects to restore the state is easier said than done. Both Florida and the U.S. as a whole have many job openings and few skilled laborers. As some projects in the state halt, they may free tradespeople for other vital work.
Construction already faced a drying well of skilled members of the workforce, and the industry has over half a million jobs to fill nationwide. Aiding Florida is a priority, but could also have ripple effects around that high demand, industry experts told Construction Dive
Hurricane Ian slammed across Florida last week, causing billions of dollars in property damage, displacing residents from their homes and claiming more than 100 lives. Destructive floods and high winds tore into buildings and infrastructure, like the Sanibel Island causeway.
There is no set timeline for recovery, and the rebuilding process will first require a full assessment of the damage. Some buildings will need to be replaced or restored, others demolished, according to Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America.
“Many decisions are interrelated,” said Simonson. “Building reconstruction or replacement on an island may have to await reestablishment of a bridge or causeway. 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.”
The recovery effort will require boots on the ground. Construction job openings rose by 407,000 in August, a 12.4% increase from a year before, and 54,000 more than in July.
The number of seasonally adjusted employed construction workers in Florida reached 593,800 in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was an increase of 3.3% from August 2021.
Nevertheless, unemployment for job-seekers with construction experience was nearly 4% in August nationwide, close to an all-time low for the month, and close to the all-industry rate. Florida’s low, industry-wide rate of unemployment was 2.7%, an all-time low since 2006.
“Together, these figures suggest there are many openings and few experienced construction workers looking to fill them, both nationally and in Florida,” Simonson said.
Demand will only increase for those workers now that Ian has created the need for more construction projects.
John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: [email protected] or (631) 608-1346.
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