Builders have addressed their inability to keep up with demand for new homes, saying there simply aren’t enough workers to build them.
Building firms point out there are around 250,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S. today, including positions for home framers, electricians, masons, carpenters and others. This shortage of workers means that new home construction is being held back.
“It takes me twice as long now to do an estimate as it used to,” Jason Scott, owner of North Star Premier Custom Homes in Westlake, Ohio, told realtor.com. He reckons that he now has to wait an average of 8 to 10 weeks in order to procure workers for his projects, whereas before it would take just a single day. Unfortunately Scott is not alone, as many builders face similar recruitment problems, the National Association of Home Builders said.
“We’ve got rising housing demand at the same time that the residential construction industry lacks workers,” said Robert Dietz, the NAHB’s chief economist.
Dietz said that builders expect to complete around 900,000 new single-family homes this year, which is far below the 1.2 million needed to keep pace with buyer demand.
Builders are being blamed for not building more homes amid an intense shortage of housing inventory across the nation. Economists say that the lack of new homes is also to blame for rising home prices across the country.
But the builders say the lack of workers means higher costs, with subcontractors taking advantage of the situation to increase their prices by around 10 percent this year alone, Scott said. He told realtor.com that he’s now paying double for framing workers compared to what they were receiving a decade ago.
“I know builders who haven’t factored these [workers’ pay] increases in, and they’re watching $10,000 to $15,000 come off their bottom line,” Scott said.
The construction industry saw thousands of workers leave during the last housing crisis and many of those have not returned. Things have been complicated further by a decline in vocational education courses, which means fewer young people are pursuing a career in trades.
Some organizations are stepping in to train more workers for construction. The Home Builders Association in Colorado Springs, Colo., for example, has partnered with a local school district to start a vocational program, Careers in Construction, in six schools. Home Depot recently pledged $50 million to the Home Builders Institute, an educational trade group, to support a Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training program in schools and on military bases.
“The worker shortage is severe,” Dietz said. “The industry is going to have to recruit the next generation of construction workers—or we’ll continue to underbuild houses, there won’t be enough houses, and home prices will continue to rise faster than incomes.”