As Walls & Ceilings has reported in the past, the shrunken pool of skilled construction workers, a legacy of the Great Recession and its aftermath, looms as a problem here and around the country as the economy slowly recovers and construction picks up, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

“With growth will come new challenges,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, in a conference call with the media on Tuesday. “As firms continue to slowly expand their payrolls, for example, they will have a harder time finding enough skilled construction workers.”

The findings of the association’s annual outlook survey of contractors nationwide shows 62 percent are already encountering difficulty filling key professional and craft positions. Just more than half said they continue to see employees leave for other construction firms or other professions.

“One reason firms may be worried, particularly about the supply of craft workers, is that nearly half of the firms participating in the survey believe training programs for new workers are poor or below average,” Simonson said.

Optimism among contractors nationwide is at its highest point since 2008, but nevertheless remains pretty subdued. The national trend in construction is generally that more companies expect to add workers this year and fewer companies expect layoffs.

Not enough contractors in New Mexico responded to the outlook survey to produce a statistical snapshot. Of the seven that did respond, three added jobs in 2013 while two were stable and two reduced payroll. All indicated some degree of difficulty in filling open skilled positions, including those created by turnover.

The construction downturn has made the field extremely competitive as firms vie for contracts on fewer jobs, a phenomenon that most contractors nationwide believe is not going away in 2014. As a result, just more than half of those surveyed plan to pursue new projects outside their traditional geographical market area.

Pending new federal regulations and legislative issues concern contractors, the top most being the pending expiration of tax deductions and bonus depreciation of construction equipment.