Jonathan Beaudry uses a pickaxe to cut a channel for a pipe alongside one of the Lynn Street Cottages on Monday, April 9, 2018, on Lynn Street in Columbia, Mo. Beaudry works for Job Point in the YouthBuild program where he works toward his High School Equivalency Test through construction training. Credit: Jordan Kodner | AP

Some 79 percent of construction firms nationwide said they plan to add employees in the new year, but they remain concerned about finding qualified workers, according to an industry report.

The labor shortages are affecting construction costs and project schedules, according to the report released Wednesday by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate.

Maine saw construction jobs decrease for the year, from 28,300 in November 2017 to 28,100 in November 2018, and for the month from 28,600 in October 2018, according to the ACG.

“As growing demand and labor shortages force contractors to do more with less, many firms are increasing their investments in labor-saving technologies like building information modeling, lean construction and robotics,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

He said 32 percent of those responding to the association’s survey are using methods to reduce onsite work time. That includes lean construction, drones, three-dimensional printers and offsite prefabrication.

The association said that despite political partisanship and ongoing trade disputes, contractors are optimistic about demand for construction services in 2019.

The responses came before the partial federal government shutdown. The association surveyed 1,300 construction firms from 49 states and the District of Columbia for its report.

Although the number of survey respondents from Maine was small and may not represent sentiment across the state, 57 percent of those who took the association’s survey said they expected to hire more than 25 people this year. EIghty-six percent of respondents admitted that finding appropriate personnel to fill positions was tough, and that situation will continue for the foreseeable future.

Some 25 percent of Maine respondents said they increased hourly pay rates to make jobs more attractive, while 13 percent provided incentives or bonuses. About 38 percent increased benefit contributions.

Maine contractors are tapping into technology, with 33 percent saying that they invest 1 percent to 1.9 percent of their annual gross revenue in information technology.

As for what keeps Maine’s construction company executives up at night, 50 percent said worker shortages, 25 percent said safety and another 25 percent said not enough private work.

Because of the mismatch between jobs and qualified workers, 57 percent of companies said they plan to invest more in training and development in 2019.

Lori Valigra, investigative reporter for the environment, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...