Florida’s labor and construction supply shortage worsens in the wake of Hurricane Ian

By Jenny LescohierOctober 12, 2022

If you can help with reconstruction in Florida, register with the Disaster Contractor Network, an organization that connects property owners and building professionals with storm-related goods and services

Help is needed as the state of Florida expects to see up to $70 billion in damages as a result of the Category 4 Hurricane Ian, one of the strongest storm systems in U.S. history. The massive cleanup effort will require a considerable amount of building materials and construction labor, causing concern for construction businesses already struggling against shortages.

President Biden has approved Gov. Ron DeSantis’s request for Emergency Disaster Declaration in Florida and FEMA announced that federal emergency aid has been made available to the state of Florida to supplement the state, tribal and local response efforts due to emergency conditions resulting from the hurricane.

Construction was struggling in Florida before the disaster struck due to shortages of workers and supplies.

According to employment data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry added 407,000 jobs in August, with Florida reaching 593,000 employed construction workers in that month. Unemployment for those with construction experience was almost 4%, however, indicating the number of openings trumps the quantity of construction workers looking to fill them. Construction supplies have also been scarce.

“Almost without exception we are experiencing unreliable timeframes in obtaining building materials, if you can get them at all, and labor is facing similar problems,” Peter Dyga, CEO of the Florida East Coast chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, told the Jacksonville Business Journal. “For places that need to be rebuilt from a structure perspective, this is not a good outlook.”

Supply chain and construction material markets were struggling long before the arrival of Hurricane Ian in late September, causing billions of dollars in property damage, the displacement of more than 40,000 people and at least 106 deaths.

“People are aware of the many supply-chain glitches that have occurred over the last two-and-a-half years and, while some of those have improved, others have actually gotten worse recently,” he noted. “I have had reports from several parts of the country, including Florida, over the last few months of short supplies of cement or ready-mixed concrete.”

CoreLogic estimated Hurricane Ian caused between $41 billion and $70 billion in uninsured and insured losses to residential and commercial properties in Florida. 

These figures don’t include damage to infrastructure, such as roads and bridges that were washed out, Dyga noted, adding that government will make rebuilding infrastructure a top priority, so labor and materials will be allocated to those projects first.

“Some capacity for new construction could be moved to reconstruction,” Dyga told the Business Journal. “We can’t continue with the same level of new construction in some parts of the state as we try to rebuild.”

Following a hurricane, Florida law allows general contractors to suspend the termination of existing building permits, so they can pause existing jobs and focus on reconstruction, Dyga noted.

Besides critical infrastructure projects, most rebuilding won’t take place right away as property owners seek to assess damage, work with insurance providers and decide whether to rebuild. It will take time and could cause construction delays and impact pricing in the meantime.

If you are interested in helping with the reconstruction effort in Florida, Associated Builders and Contractors asks you to consider the following:

  • Register with the Disaster Contractor Network, an organization that connects property owners and building professionals with storm-related goods and services. ABC of Florida is also a founding partner of this organization.
  • Donate to the Florida Disaster Fund, the state of Florida’s official private fund to assist Florida’s communities during times of emergency and disaster.
  • Donate through the ABC Cares Foundation, which helps those who suffered injuries or death as a result of the hurricane.
  • Look for ways to volunteer virtually and in person through Volunteer Florida.
  • Visit ABC for more about how to prepare and recover from a hurricane and other natural disasters.
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