Although the industry has been recovering, homebuilding is far from returning to the hot pace of the middle of the last decade. But even at the present lukewarm pace of construction starts, builders in Texas are finding it hard to hire qualified workers, according to a story in the Houston Chronicle (see: "Builders facing labor shortages in Texas, US," by L. M. Sixel.

"Eighty-two percent of construction companies in Texas report they're having trouble filling craft jobs and 52 percent say they're having problems filling salaried positions," the paper reported. "Even with that kind of demand, the industry hasn't had much luck wooing oil field workers who lost jobs over the past year as oil prices plunged."

it's not just a Texas problem: BloombergBusiness reported this week that builders nationwide are feeling the labor pinch (see: "Labor Shortage Sparks Production Delays for Homebuilders," by Prashant Gopal and John Gittelsohn). "Meritage Homes Corp. plunged last week after lowering its earnings forecast, citing rising labor costs and a shortage of workers to finish houses," Bloomberg noted. "Shea Homes, Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., Beazer Homes USA Inc. and William Lyon Homes have pointed to a paucity of tradesmen for a slowdown in completions in some markets."

"The unemployment rate for the construction sector was 6.1 percent in August, down from 17 percent five years earlier," reported Bloomberg. But conditions for Texas employers were particularly competitive, Bloomberg noted: "The search for tradesmen has become more competitive in Houston and other Texas cities, where heavy rains prevented workers from pouring concrete for as many as 60 days and insurance companies repairing damaged properties offered higher pay for laborers."