As immigration into the U.S. falls, builders are scrambling to pull together full workforces.
Immigrants have long been a reliable source of labor for low-skilled construction jobs—in 2016, immigrants accounted for one in four construction workers, the New York Times reports. But the number of Mexican immigrants specifically has been falling, due to President Trump’s increased border enforcement, as well as economic growth in Mexico and the aging of the country’s population.
The problem for builders is that the recovery in home building has outpaced the growth of the construction labor force. Housing starts have picked up to a pace of 1.2 million a month, more than twice as many as at their trough in April 2009. The number of nonsupervisory workers in residential construction, by contrast, has increased by only 40 percent since hitting bottom in 2011, to about 530,000.
“The recent shortage of immigrant workers is impacting housing and housing affordability,” said Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders.