News

Growing Labor Shortages Impede Housing and Economic Recovery

March 29, 2013

Growing labor shortages in all facets of the residential construction sector are impeding the housing and economic recovery, according to a new survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“The survey of our members shows that since June of 2012, residential construction firms are reporting an increasing number of shortages in all aspects of the industry – from carpenters, excavators, framers, roofers and plumbers, to bricklayers, HVAC, building maintenance managers and weatherization workers. The same holds true for subcontractors,” said David Crowe, NAHB chief economist.

The survey also found that more than half of the builders reported that labor shortages over the past six months have caused them to pay higher wages or subcontractor bids to secure projects, and as a result, to raise home prices. Of the 46 percent of builders who experienced delays in completing projects on time, 15 percent had to turn down some projects and nine percent lost or cancelled sales as a result of recent labor shortages.

Part of the reason for the labor shortages can be attributed to the fact that many skilled residential construction workers were forced to seek employment elsewhere during the recession and are no longer currently available. “What used to be high-paying, skilled jobs vanished as builders across the nation went out of business or were forced to let workers go,” said Rick Judson, NAHB chairman, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C.

To help meet the growing demand for skilled labor within the housing sector, the Home Builders Institute (HBI), in partnership with NAHB, provides career training and job placement in the building industry. HBI offers an array of pre-apprenticeship training programs in a variety of skilled trades that can be customized to meet workforce needs. HBI regularly places approximately 80 percent of its student graduates in jobs in the building sector.

“We are ramping up our efforts to train diverse populations and place them in jobs to meet the growing demand of the building sector,” said John Courson, HBI president and CEO.

“Even in a period of relatively high unemployment, we still need to complement our job training efforts by bringing in foreign workers to meet the needs of home builders and home buyers,” said Judson.

NAHB is anticipating total housing starts of 970,000 this year and 1.18 million in 2014 as the market continues its gradual rebound.

“We need to look holistically at the home-building infrastructure to meet growing and future demand,” said Judson. “To avoid a run-up in prices in hot markets due to labor issues, we need to complement our current training programs with a market-based visa system that would allow more immigrants to legally enter the construction workforce each year when there is a dearth of workers to fill the jobs that are needed.”
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