The real estate market in the United States is tight because the country is short of an estimated 4.3 million homes, according to Zillow. So, expanding the supply of homes would seem the obvious solution, but the industry is facing an acute labor shortage, and the demand for new workers is growing faster than the supply. Stacker delved into the state of employment in the home construction industry, using data from various sources. In this article, we will explore why there is a significant shortage of workers in this sector.
Aging construction workers:
The average age of construction workers is increasing, and fewer young people are entering the workforce. In 2022, nearly a quarter of construction workers were over 55. This means that, as those workers retire, there aren’t enough people following to take their positions. In 2021, the median age of someone working in the construction industry was 42, one year older than the overall workforce. In states such as Maine and Vermont, that number was closer to 47.
Declining immigrant workforce:
The construction industry has long relied on the valuable contributions of immigrants to meet its workforce demands. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with unfriendly immigration policies, has significantly impacted this trend. As a result, many skilled workers were compelled to return to their home countries, disrupting the stability of the industry. Consequently, the process of recruiting new immigrant workers has become a daunting challenge for the construction sector.
Manual labor jobs, encompassing a wide range of industries, have faced significant challenges in recent decades. The perception that these jobs offer limited career prospects has led to a decline in students pursuing technical courses related to manual labor. Moreover, the rapid proliferation of computers and technology has prompted schools to prioritize STEM courses, often at the expense of vocational classes like woodshop or mechanics. As a result, the dwindling interest in and support for manual labor careers has potentially hindered individuals from exploring fulfilling and financially rewarding opportunities in these fields.
Need for training:
Both private companies and the government play crucial roles in actively recruiting and training young people, ensuring a skilled workforce for the future. However, addressing this need requires significant investments of both time and money. Unfortunately, many construction companies, hindered by limited resources, struggle to provide comprehensive training programs for their workers, resulting in a less-skilled workforce that may face challenges in meeting industry demands. This highlights the necessity for collaborative efforts and innovative solutions to bridge this skills gap and cultivate a highly skilled workforce capable of driving growth and success in the construction industry.
Only 10.9% of those employed in the construction industry are women, according to the National Association of Home Builders. While women can make excellent construction workers, women are often not encouraged to join the construction industry, and it has been traditionally viewed as a male-dominated sector. This is an opportunity for the industry to embrace diversity and do better in attracting talented female workers.
The construction industry’s labor shortage challenge is complex, and it will take a combination of factors to get more workers engaged. The problem is more significant than ever, and unless corrective measures are taken, the situation is expected to worsen. Ultimately, both the government and private companies need to work together to ensure there are enough workers to satisfy the robust demand. This includes offering apprenticeship programs, increasing pay and benefits, and reaching out to young people to encourage them to consider this industry. Although it may take time and investment, ultimately, investing in a new, well-trained workforce will bring good news not only to the sector itself but also to the wider economy as a whole.