This Associated Press article of May 9, 2013, highlights the dilemma in the U.S. home construction industry right now: Residential home construction is recovering, but the shortage of skilled labor is holding builders back.
The problem stems from the housing bust that was part of the overall economic crisis of 2008. When housing construction took a nosedive, qualified workers left the construction industry for other fields. Now that construction is up, general contractors are scrambling to get those workers back. As of March, 2013, new home construction was up 47 percent over March of 2012. But construction employment rose only 3.7 percent over the same time frame.
“For now, the industry is building faster than it’s hiring. In February, builders began work on single-family homes at the fastest pace in five years. And in March, they broke the 1 million mark for the first time since June 2008. Permits for future construction are also near a five-year high.” Areas of the country in which the housing recovery is strongest are suffering the worst shortages of labor. Predominantly, these are southern states such as Texas, Florida, and Arizona. Builders in California and Colorado are also struggling to find qualified labor.
The shortage of workers covers all occupations associated with home construction. Plumbers, framers, roofers, painters, HVAC/R technicians, and electricians are all in demand, besides construction supervisors and purchasing agents. Almost half of the members of the National Association of Home Builders who responded to a survey said that the labor shortage has caused delays in work completion.
Another consequence of the labor shortfall is the increase in pay for qualified technicians who can be found. Paying more for labor has compelled builders to raise prices on the homes they build. The median price of a new home in early 2013 was $246,800, up 12 percent from the previous year. But they are still selling.
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