Skilled labor plays a crucial role in ensuring that construction projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the required standards of quality and safety. However, the construction industry has been facing a labor shortage in recent years, which poses a significant challenge to the industry's growth and sustainability. Therefore, it is important to examine the characteristics of the construction skilled labor market to understand the factors that contribute to the shortage of skilled workers and develop strategies to address the issue. This paper fills this knowledge gap. To this end, the authors (1) collected and processed project documentation in relation to 67 construction projects to identify key construction labor-intensive trades, (2) conducted an expert-based survey to collect data in relation to union participation rates and degrees of skilled labor shortages across the identified trades, (3) performed clustering analysis to examine the observed levels of labor shortage across the identified trades, (4) applied a binomial test to analyze the levels of union participation for each of the labor trades, and (5) used a chi-square test of independence to investigate the correlations between workforce location and union participation on the one hand and union participation and labor shortage on the other. As such, the authors identified 10 key labor-intensive trades. It was found that plumbing and electrical trades have the highest degrees of skilled labor shortage, whereas finishing work trades (i.e., plastering and painting, flooring, and waterproofing) had the lowest. Results also showed a significant correlation between high union membership rates and the availability of skilled workers in 3 of the 10 identified trades (i.e., ironworking, flooring, and waterproofing) and that union reach in urban locations is less than that in rural areas where workers are employed. Ultimately, this paper adds to the body of knowledge by offering a closer look into the construction skilled labor market. Such knowledge can be used to mitigate the current labor shortages.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1943-5479; 0742-597X

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2023 American Society of Civil Engineers, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2024