Where Have All the Electricians Gone? A Closer Look at the Electrician Shortage

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Updated January 7, 2022
electrician installing ceiling lamp
Photo credit: Sinenkiy / Getty Images

Highlights

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be 84,700 electrician openings added each year, on average, over the decade.

  • 20% of electricians are expected to reach retirement age in the next decade.

  • Homeowners might experience longer wait times for electrical repairs and installations as a result of the electrician shortage.

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If your home needs an electrical repair or installation, you might find yourself waiting longer than usual for an appointment with a pro. That’s because of a predicted shortage of skilled laborers that’s significantly impacting the electrical field. 

In addition, increased demand for renewable energy, modernized infrastructure, and household electrical repairs is overwhelming the electrician workforce. Let’s take a look at what’s causing the electrician shortage and what homeowners can expect for the future of electrical repairs and installations.

Why Is There an Electrician Shortage?

woman electrician installing lights
Photo: sturti / Getty Images

Although the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the electrician shortage, industry professionals have been sounding the alarm about the declining number of electricians for several years. According to our 2021 Skilled Trades in America report, 77% of tradespeople believe there’s a labor shortage in the skilled trades sector, and that the number has grown during the past year. 

So what’s causing this deficit of skilled electricians? Here are the primary causes of the current electrician shortage.

Average Age of Electricians is Increasing

The median age of electricians is 41.7, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition, 20% of electricians are expected to reach retirement age within the next 10 years. According to the National Electrical Contractors Association, members of the Baby Boomer generation make up 70% of supervisors in the electrical industry. As they retire, there are fewer people available to train new electricians.

Electricians are leaving the field due to retirement, disability, or career change faster than new ones are joining the field. To fill their spots and fulfill the increasing demand for electrical work, electrical companies are working to recruit young electricians to take their spots working in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. 

Growing Demand for Electricians

A growing need to update the power grid, expand communications equipment, and connect alternative energy sources to homes is creating an increased demand for electricians. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the electrician shortage became clear to the general public as people spent long periods at home and invested in home improvement projects—many of which required hiring a skilled professional. The BLS projects 84,700 openings for electricians will be added each year, on average, over the next decade. 

Difficulty Recruiting New Electricians

Electrician recruitment was a problem even before the COVID-19 pandemic. In a 2017 study by the NAHB Economics and Housing Policy Group, the top reasons young adults gave for not wanting to go into construction trades included: 

  • Wanting a less physically demanding job

  • The work is difficult

  • Wanting an office job

“Most people want their kids to go to college, as they don’t think trade schools are good enough,” says Carl Waibel, a project manager with Waibel Electric in Etna, Ohio. “But the money’s just as good in the construction fields as in some of these [fields that require] college degrees. And you’re earning as you’re learning instead of going into [student loan] debt.”

It varies by location, but electricians can expect to start at a base pay of about $25 per hour. Electricians, on average, earn $1,024 per week, according to the BLS. The majority of electrician jobs are full-time with benefits and have a median pay of $56,900 per year.

What Does the Electrician Shortage Mean for Homeowners?

In a world with an increasing demand for home solar panels and electric vehicle chargers, the field of electricity is changing rapidly. That means electricians have to learn how to install and repair new products and code changes through continuing education. More electricians and companies specialize in certain services, meaning that homeowners might find it difficult to find someone who can complete their requested repairs.

The high demand for skilled electricians also means that companies have plenty of work, so they can pick and choose the jobs they take on. For example, a local electrician may prioritize a large, complex electrical job over a request to add a few outlets. 

For homeowners, this electrician shortage means you may have to alter the way you request the help of an experienced electrician. You could make the job more enticing by waiting until you have a handful of projects for an electrician to complete. If you belong to a homeowners association, you can reach out to other members to batch related electrical jobs together. For example, hire an electrician to install electric vehicle chargers in everyone’s garage at the same time. You can also learn to do some simple electrical work yourself, but avoid taking on projects that could cause damage to your home or yourself.

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