According to NAHB economist Paul Emrath, seven out of 10 builders report shortages of framing carpenters for hire, and three out of four builders report a similar level of difficulty lining up framing subcontractors.
In a thoughtful discussion of the homebuilding industry's labor crisis, BUILDER's John McManus, examines what the lack of skilled labor means for the bottom-line of U.S. homebuilders. But it's not just a problem for individual business owners. It's what's holding back the housing recovery following the 2008 plunge of the entire industry.
The incidence of shortages is surprisingly high given the rate of new home construction, which has only partially recovered from its 2008 downturn. In fact, the 9-trade shortage is now substantially higher than it was at the peak of the 2004-2005 boom, when annual starts were averaging around 2 million, compared to current rates of about 1 million. The last time builder-reported labor shortages were as widespread as now was just before 2001—during a prolonged period of strong GDP growth with overall unemployment as low as 4.0 percent.
What's the solution? Presidential candidates from both parties are pointing toward employer-oriented apprentice programs as a ramp-way into a livelihood "that solves, not only for home building's labor shortage problem, but addresses the 'student debt' tsunami."
Is it as viable a solution for the U.S. housing industry as it has been for Europe, McManus asks. What would it take for home building to match Germany's rate of 40 apprentices for every 1,000 jobs, vs. the current U.S. rate of three per 1,000?