U.S. Construction Industry Struggles with Worker Shortage, Pushing Up Housing Costs

The construction industry is having a tough time finding workers this year, with a shortage of about 500,000 people. This is making it more expensive to build homes when there’s already not enough houses available. Experts say the US needs to do more to help people go from school to working in construction.

When the pandemic started in the US in 2020, many construction projects stopped and lots of workers lost their jobs. But as more people started working from home and wanted bigger houses, the demand for new homes went up fast, and workers got back to work.

That demand hasn’t gone down. Over the past four years, there’s been even more need for workers because there aren’t enough houses and the government is spending more money on big projects. A model, developed by Associated Builders and Contractors, states that this year the construction industry needs about 500,000 more workers than it has — and that’s on top of the usual number they hire.

Finding workers is the biggest problem for builders, according to Ken Simonson, an expert at the Associated General Contractors of America.

While strict rules about where you can build and how are part of why homes are so expensive, not having enough construction workers is also making it harder to build houses. University of Utah and the University of Wisconsin-Madison published a report in 2023, it shows that with fewer workers, it takes longer to finish building, which makes the cost go up, according to a report from 2023.

Builders need all kinds of workers, but they especially need people who are good at specific jobs like plumbing. And this need for workers will keep going up because the government is planning more big projects, like making new energy sources, which will need workers.

The construction industry has been saying for a while that lots of workers are getting old and retiring, so we need new people to take their place. We need to include more kinds of people to make sure we have the right workers in the future.

Simonson says letting more people from other countries come to work in the US is important. But we also need to make sure young people know they can have good careers in construction. This means the government needs to give more money to schools, and schools need to tell students about construction jobs.

Ben Brubeck, from Associated Builders and Contractors, wants to tell more people that working in construction can help them get into the middle class. He says it’s a good job where you can learn while you work and don’t have to go into lots of debt like you might at college.

Construction is becoming more high-tech, which might make it more interesting for young people. There’s even technology like AI being used in construction.

And there are lots of different jobs you can do in construction, not just wearing a hard hat and holding a sign, says Maja Rosenquist from Mortenson.

Making construction more attractive to women is also important. This could mean having things like nursing stations and daycare at job sites, or making equipment that fits different body types better.

But the construction industry is having trouble because other industries are paying more money, and some jobs let people work from home or have more flexible hours. Plus, most construction workers can’t do manual labor forever, so it’s hard to keep workers for a long time.

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