Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

This Industry Has $1 Trillion in Funding But Can't Find Any Workers The construction industry has faced an urgent labor shortage in recent years.

By Madeline Garfinkle

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Reza Estakhrian | Getty Images

In November 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocated $1 trillion—with $550 billion in new spending over five years—to invest in roads, railways, bridges, and broadband internet to upgrade and expand infrastructure across the country.

But a year and a half later, some economists and hiring professionals note that those funds are essentially worthless if there's no one to do the job, NPR reported.

Between 2019 and 2020, construction application activity declined by 40%, and remained somewhat static since, the chief economist at ZipRecruiter, Julia Pollak, told NPR. In February 2023, construction job openings increased by 129,000, but in the overall job market, openings fell by 632,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Construction industry professionals have also highlighted a key flaw in the $1 trillion deal: it failed to set aside adequate funds for training individuals to complete the jobs it intended to prioritize.

Adding to the labor deficit is a lack of qualified teachers in the industry. Nathan Barry, dean of career and technical education at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska, told NPR that initiatives to expand construction training began nearly 10 years ago because he noticed a disproportionate amount of workers ready to retire, but lacked a "good pipeline of people coming in."

Related: There Are a Ton of New Jobs In Energy. Are You Qualified to Fill Them?

However, Barry said the school's construction education center has a long waitlist of prospective students, but it's hard to find anyone qualified to teach the offerings.

"Who's gonna go teach a high school class for $50,000 a year when they can make $85 to $100,000 a year...in the trades?" Sean Ray, a vice president who oversees training at Sundt Construction in Arizona, told the outlet.

It's also been tough to sell prospective workers on a life in construction — a job that requires intense physical labor.

"That's the thing that we're not doing a great job with," Ray said. "We've got to find a way to make construction sexy."

Still, things might be looking up, with the construction industry showing signs of a rebound. According to data firm Statista, the construction sector employed almost eight million people in the U.S. in early 2023 — marking the highest number since the start of the pandemic when employment levels were around six million.

Related: Construction Is Booming Now but Without New Workers and Tech Its Future Is Uncertain

Madeline Garfinkle

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

TikTok Reportedly Laid Off a 'Large Percentage' of Employees as the App's Fate in the U.S. Remains Unclear

Laid-off TikTok employees were notified Wednesday night through Thursday morning.

Business News

Four Seasons Orlando Responds to Viral TikTok: 'There's Something Here For All Ages'

The video has amassed over 45.4 million views on TikTok.

Business News

More People Are Exploring Entrepreneurship Because of This Unexpected Reason

More new business applications were filed in 2023 than in any other year so far.

Personal Finance

This Investment Bundle Includes a Trading Course and Stock Screener Tool for $150

Approach the stock market with an increased understanding.

Growing a Business

5 Strategies to Know As You Scale Your Business

Scaling a service-based company requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond simply increasing revenue. It requires careful planning, strategic decision-making and a deep understanding of market dynamics.