That’s because builders say it’s getting harder and harder for them to find workers, especially in places that rely on immigrant labor.
“There’s just not anybody you can hire out there,” said Stan Marek, CEO of Marek Construction.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, more than 56 percent of developers nationwide are reporting labor shortages.
NAHB says the problems started when the recession hit and domestic construction workers dropped out of the market to find other jobs. At the same time, immigrant workers went back to their home countries. But as the economy has picked up and the construction industry has heated up, those workers have remained missing.
The problem is compounded in hot real estate markets where more and more housing projects are finding fewer and fewer workers.
“Half of the workers in construction in Texas are undocumented,” Marek said. “We do hear that there are a lot of undocumented workers that are leaving the state, going to other states that don’t have the anti-immigrant sentiment and many of them are going back to Mexico.”
Ted Wilson with Residential Strategies, Inc. has run the numbers.
“We’ve seen direct construction costs climb by over 30 percent,” Wilson said, “and a lot of that is directly attributed to what builders are having to pay their subs and trades in wages.”
Meaning, with so few workers out there, construction companies have had to pay more to attract them, which adds to the cost of a home.
“You know, when you figure that 60 percent of the cost of a job is labor,” Marek said, “that’s a lot of money.”
But apart from higher prices and inconvenience to consumers, Marek said the worker shortage is a drag on the economy, keeping the recovery from going full throttle. Marek said he is turning down projects for lack of workers.
“I think if we were able to find the legal workers,” says Marek, “we could add in our company maybe another five to 600 people. There’s work out there if we could find those people.”