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The million missing workers may stifle the real estate industry

Blue collar workers are needed more than ever in the housing market but despite an influx of new blood, the industry as a whole is still about one million laborers short of desired levels.

new home construction

Isn’t there an old saying that goes something like “Marry a plumber and you’ll never have a leaky faucet?” If there’s not, there should be and you should add, “Marry a construction worker and your house will never fall apart.”

Of course the way things are going you might want to add in brackets “If you can find one!”

Labor: The last frontier

As far back as I can remember, there has never been anything wrong with trades. Say what you will but this country sits on the shoulders of blue collar workers. At some point, that mindset changed.

Fortune points out that in the 1990s, “Schools began to phase out vocational classes and began to encourage all students to pursue a four-year college degree.”

Even if it was with the best of intentions, this move put skilled trades growth in a state of flux. One of the industries hardest hit was home construction.

Implosion by the numbers

According to an article on the US Census, “The percentage of 19- to 25-year-olds hired in the construction sector declined from approximately 18% at its peak before 2006 to 13% in 2012-2013.”

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That may not seem like that big of a deal. But the flipside is that those 19-to-25-year-olds were replaced with workers 45 to 55 years old.

In an industry that could use a few young men (and women), 45-to-55-year-old demographic employed in the construction sector has exceeded the employment share of this age group for all other industries.

Some [but not much] improvement

This is an industry that could use some new blood. The National Association of Home Builders explains that, “Although the residential construction industry has gained more than 433,000 positions since the lowest low following the Great Recession, the industry remains more than 1 million workers short of the workforce seen at peak 2006 levels.”

The lingering talent gap

The sad reality is that homebuilding and home services businesses are stunted and the ripple effect of that comes in the form of completing construction projects on time, and home prices being raised due to labor shortages.

I’m not sure what the solution is. Some types of labor – building homes for example – can’t exactly be outsourced. And with an entire older generation of workers set to retire the housing industry is in dire need of some replacements.

Anybody got a hammer and some nails?

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Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.


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