Project Management Institute

Raise the Roof

Labor Shortages Threaten to Slow Housing Projects Across the United States

A serious labor shortage is threatening to slow housing projects across the United States. In May, builders reported shortages in 12 of 16 labor categories, with carpenters, framing crews, bricklayers and concrete workers in the shortest supply, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Source: National Association of Home Builders

For projects such as student housing, where project deadlines must hold firm to meet the influx of new residents each academic year, the labor shortage is driving “significant pricing variability,” Todd Benson, managing director of development and asset management, PEBB Capital Student Living, told Multi-Housing News. “We are obsessively focused on our schedule and critical path, [and] we diligently vet and select subcontractors to ensure that they have capacity to handle our projects and can make up time if we fall behind.”

That meticulous vetting may be needed for years to come as analysts warn the labor crunch won't lift soon. In part, that's because younger workers aren't flocking to construction. Nationally, the number of young construction workers dropped nearly 30 percent from 2005 to 2016, according to BuildZoom. And even as the housing market recovered, the overall number of construction workers has continued to fall. The loss of young workers “is a scar from which the construction industry has yet to recover,” Trulia Chief Economist Issi Romem told The Wall Street Journal.

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