NAHB says construction worker shortage could hurt recovery
A recent survey of National Association of Home Builders members showed more than half say they have had to increase wages or bids to secure workers. And 46 percent say the shortage has caused them to delay completing projects while 15 percent said they have had to refuse some work.
“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,” said David Crowe, chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders. “The same holds true for subcontractors.”
The housing market’s 2008 collapse forced many skilled workers to seek new careers outside of construction, said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C.
“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,” Judson said.
An estimated 1.4 million housing-related jobs were lost during the downturn, association officials said.
To fix the problem, the NAHB has partnered with the Home Builders Institute to train future industry workers. The institute offers pre-apprenticeship, skilled-trade education programs. The institute says it places 80 percent of its graduates in building-related jobs.
“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 HBI President and CEO John Courson.
A healthy housing market is critical to America’s economy, the NAHB said. The construction of a thousand single-family houses creates more than 3,000 jobs, $145.4 million in wages and $89 million in federal, state or local tax revenue. The association expects 970,000 housing starts this year and 1.18 million in 2014.
Normal housing starts should be about 1.7 million a year, NAHB said.
“We need to look holistically at the home-building infrastructure to meet growing and future demand,” Judson said. “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.”