A serious shortage of industrial construction workers is most definitely on the way, but when it will happen is anybody’s guess.
Maintenance turnarounds and capital projects in south Louisiana continue to be kicked down the road, first because of the pandemic and now because of resulting supply chain delays.
Industrial Info Resources, a market intelligence firm in Sugar Land, Texas, had predicted that a surge in previously backed-up maintenance and capital projects could begin later this year and lead to severe shortages in labor. That’s all changed, says Trey Hamblet, IIR’s vice president of research, as projects have been delayed yet again by the unpredictable supply chain.
“They’re kicking projects down the road that were supposed to begin this year to next year because they’re not sure they can get the materials they need,” Hamblet says.
When industrial owners finally do pull the trigger on projects, it will likely result in an unprecedented tsunami of work and put an immediate strain on the local workforce, says Hamblet. Some 80-plus individual plant turnarounds tracked by IIR along the Gulf Coast have been moved to 2022, and they’re not likely to be delayed again.
Nonetheless, some entry-level workers are hard to find even with current investment delays, and the COVID-19 pandemic is the primary reason.
“There has been a problem getting those lower-tier workers,” says economist Loren Scott of Loren C. Scott & Associates in Baton Rouge. “With government aid they were getting $13.60 an hour to stay home versus working in a job that’s hard, where they had to get a babysitter and had to travel. The incentive to stay home was pretty strong.”