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The 'Mystery' of the Construction Labor Shortage

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The 'Mystery' of the Construction Labor Shortage


August 1, 2018
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Photo: Unsplash/Joao Silas

Young adults are not seeking construction jobs, and many housing experts are wondering how the industry's labor levels got to this point. 

Since 2005, the share of workers aged 24 years or younger in construction has dropped about 30 percent nationally, according to an analysis of Census data by Issi Romem, chief economist at construction data firm BuildZoom. The loss of young workers is “a scar from which the construction industry has yet to recover,” he tells Realtor.com. Rising costs in building is cited as one driver, as builders are less incentivized to spend time hiring workers who are not yet trained, nor are builders willing to raise wages beyond a certain point, straining profitability. 

Construction’s inability to attract young workers is something of a mystery, industry executives say. Some note that many high schools cut vocational training programs during the recession and are only now bringing them back. Others point to parents’ desire for their children to get a college degree, the allure of technology jobs and the high cost of living in areas where jobs are most plentiful. Parents often think that “if your child does not go to college, you’ve failed them,” said Timothy Murphy, chief executive of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange. “We’re trying to educate parents that the opposite is very true.”

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