Sales, prices, and housing starts are up in California, and builders are seeing opportunity again. The bad news? A shortage of skilled workers, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times ("Home builders struggling to find enough construction workers," by Alana Semuels and Alejandro Lazo).

"Years of sporadic employment drove many from the industry," reports the Times. "Incomes aren't what they used to be. Laid-off workers remember the sting of lost livelihoods; some have had enough of boom and bust."

Pay rates are down for workers in the trades, making the jobs less attractive — especially considering the unsteady nature of the work. As former house painter Alan Schaffer put it: I love construction, I love building. But I can't have a job that pays me $50,000 one year and zip the next. I need to be more financially secure."