The Consequence of Colorado’s Construction Labor Shortage

by Sarah Green

It’s no secret: Colorado’s growth is booming. A low unemployment rate, a swelling population and a red-hot housing market make the Centennial State a desirable place to live and work. However, Colorado is facing one serious issue: a construction labor shortage that is not being immediately addressed. The demand for skilled labor workers is leaving the door open for workplace safety violations, sexual harassment, fear, wage theft and discrimination.

WHY THE SHORTAGE?

The perfect storm of an aging workforce and substantial layoffs of skilled workers during the recession who never returned, a lack of affordable housing and the growing demand for skilled workers to meet the needs of a flourishing housing market have all contributed to the shortage of construction workers. And Colorado has one of the highest housing demands in the U.S. The state’s population, as a whole, is expected to balloon to over 7 million people by 2035, which means roughly 17,000 new homes — per year — will need to be built in order to keep up with the growth.

But the more important piece of the puzzle is that the high demand for skilled construction laborers is inviting unnecessary opportunity for worker exploitation. The labor market is not functioning as it should, which invites lawsuits and violations such as discrimination, sexual harassment and wage theft, said David Seligman, director of Towards Justice.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the October 22, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.