Lack of workers sends construction costs soaring

Local News

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Rising costs are a reality for anyone trying to build, and with construction season well underway, it can cause problems. 

There are a lot of different factors which could make projects increase in cost, but the biggest issue is there aren’t enough workers. 

“We’re about seven percent over our budget prior to bidding,” said Monticello school superintendent Vic Zimmerman. 

“Over budget”: Those are two words anyone involved in construction is getting too used to hearing.

“There’s a lot of work in central Illinois with the Champaign project, with the U of I projects and those types of things, and all of the apartments that continue to be built in Champaign.”

The project at Centennial High School started at an estimate of $63 million. Monday night, school board leaders approved an increase of $8 million. 

Local industry leaders say there are a lot of factors which come into play. It could be tariff costs or too many projects at once, but the biggest factor is there aren’t enough workers. 

The problem started during the recession. In 2008, 30 percent of the headcount was lost for the entire construction industry. 

“In general, it’s just the amount of work. It’s basic supply and demand. When there’s a lot of work and there’s not a lot of contractors around or the contractors that are around all full up with work, then the prices are going to be higher.”

It means current projects also involve a lot of overtime. With the shortage which exists right now, it could add 50 percent to the cost, leaving everyone, to foot the pricetag. 

Construction experts at Parkland College say things are improving for the industry, but that’s not happening as quickly in Illinois as in other states.

Most construction estimates only last a few months because of how quickly the cost changes. Half of the cost of any construction project is labor.

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