Labor Shortage Causes Headaches for Builders

Buyers eyeing newly constructed homes may need to brace for building delays and higher prices due to an ongoing labor shortage. About two-thirds of homebuilding contractors say they’re struggling to finish projects on time because of the labor shortage, according to a new survey sponsored by USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. More than one-third say they sometimes have to turn projects down.

“Basically, they’re just making people work harder as a way to cope,” says Steve Jones, senior director of Dodge Data & Analytics who is part of the research team. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents say they’re having trouble finding skilled laborers, particularly in specialty areas such as concrete, interior finishes, masonry, electrical, and plumbing.

“There is reason for concern in the lack of qualified talent,” says Tom Donohue, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. Further, more construction projects are being started with an insufficient number of workers. Construction spending zoomed to $359.5 billion in the first four months of this year, which is 5.8 percent higher than the same period in 2016, according to Census data.

During the housing downturn, many workers left the industry for other employment and have not returned. Also, the construction workforce is aging, Jones says. “You have an aging workforce in an industry that doesn’t lend itself to long careers because it’s hard, physical work, and then you lose a whole bunch of people,” he says.

Source: “Labor Shortage Squeezes Real-Estate Developers,” The Wall Street Journal (June 27, 2017) [Log-in required.]

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