Construction Productivity, construction technology, production tracking —

Up Your Game When Managing Construction Labor Costs

PeritusMay 21, 2024 • 5 min read

Managing construction labor costs is one of the most significant challenges trade contractors face on every project. Labor often constitutes a substantial portion of project expenses, and inefficiencies can lead to budget overruns, delays, and reduced profitability. 

Here are some practical strategies, supported by research findings and industry data, to help trade contractors manage construction labor costs more effectively.

Accurate Project Planning and Scheduling

Effective labor cost management begins with meticulous project planning and scheduling. Break the project down into smaller activities and milestones so you can estimate the labor required for each. Use historical data from similar projects to enhance accuracy. A detailed schedule outlining each task’s start and finish dates helps plan labor deployment, ensuring that workers are active and well-rested.

Construction Industry Institute (CII) study found that effective planning can improve labor productivity by up to 25%, highlighting the importance of investing in the planning phase to mitigate potential cost overruns due to labor inefficiencies.

Hire the Right People

Hiring skilled and reliable workers is crucial. Skilled labor may come with higher hourly rates, but their efficiency can lead to cost savings in the long run. Conduct thorough interviews, check references, and consider providing workforce skills training. Investing in a competent team can significantly reduce rework and errors, saving time and money.

Research from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) indicates that rework due to poor artistry can account for up to 12% of total project costs. By hiring skilled workers, contractors can reduce the incidence of rework and improve overall project efficiency.

Implement Time Tracking and Attendance Systems

Adopt digital time tracking and attendance systems to monitor worker hours accurately. Manual tracking can lead to errors and time theft. With digital systems, you can ensure that you pay for actual work. These systems also provide valuable data on productivity, helping you identify and address inefficiencies.

A report by McKinsey & Company suggests that digital tools and automation can boost construction productivity by up to 15%. By implementing time-tracking systems, contractors can gain better control over labor costs and improve project timelines.

Optimize Labor Utilization

Labor utilization refers to how effectively you are using your workforce. Ensure that you have the correct number of workers for each task. Too many workers can lead to overcrowding and reduced productivity, while too few can cause delays. Use your project schedule to allocate labor efficiently, and consider employing a just-in-time labor approach where workers are scheduled to arrive precisely when needed.

The U.S. BLS reports that efficient labor utilization can significantly impact project costs and timelines. Proper labor allocation ensures that resources are used effectively, reducing idle time and increasing productivity.

Leverage Technology

Utilizing technology to streamline workflows on the jobsite can improve productivity. Project management software can help coordinate tasks, track progress, and manage resources. 

Tools like Rhumbix can consolidate workflows for timekeeping, production tracking, and out-of-scope T&M tracking, among other things, in a single app. Building Information Modeling (BIM) can also improve planning and reduce errors during construction, ultimately saving on labor costs. Additionally, drones can help with site surveys and monitoring, as they can provide accurate data and reduce the need for manual inspections.

According to a Dodge Data & Analytics study, contractors using BIM reported a 5% reduction in project costs due to improved collaboration and fewer errors. This demonstrates the significant cost-saving potential of integrating advanced technologies into construction processes.

Implement Lean Construction Principles

Lean construction principles focus on maximizing value while minimizing waste. This involves eliminating activities that do not add value to the project. Regularly review processes to identify and remove inefficiencies. 

The Lean Construction Institute (LCI) has shown that lean principles can reduce project costs by 10-20%. By adopting these practices, contractors can streamline operations and reduce unnecessary labor expenses.

Regular Training and Skill Development

Ongoing training and skill development can improve worker efficiency and quality of work. Provide training sessions on the latest construction techniques, safety protocols, and use of new equipment. Skilled trade workers are reducing the need for costly rework.

Many industry sources highlight that continuous training can substantially improve labor productivity. Investing in your workforce’s skills ensures higher-quality work and fewer delays.

Monitor and Analyze Labor Costs Regularly

Regular monitoring and analysis of labor costs are essential. Use project tracking software to track real-time labor costs and compare them against your budget to identify labor trends and where you can cut costs. It also enables you to make informed decisions and adjustments before costs spiral out of control.

Foster Good Communication

Effective communication is vital for smooth project execution. Ensure clear communication between the project managers, supervisors, and workers. Miscommunications can lead to errors, rework, and wasted time. Regular meetings and updates can keep management and field workers on the same page.

Plan for Contingencies

Despite the best planning, unforeseen issues can arise, causing delays and additional labor costs—plan for contingencies by including a buffer in your labor budget. A contingency plan can help you manage unexpected events without significantly affecting your budget.


Managing construction labor costs effectively requires careful planning, efficient processes, and the right tools. By implementing these strategies and leveraging industry research, trade contractors can improve labor productivity, reduce waste, and enhance profitability.