For Remodelers, Shortages of Skilled Labor Remain Elevated


In response to NAHB’s Remodeling Market Index (RMI) survey for the 3rd quarter of 2018, roughly 85 percent of remodelers reported shortages of workers available to perform finished or rough carpentry, and nearly half (48 percent) classified the shortage of finished carpenters as serious.  Although these percentages are down slightly from a year earlier, they remain seriously elevated.

The RMI survey collected information on 16 specific occupations that  were either specifically recommended by Home Builders Institute (NAHB’s workforce development arm) or that NAHB found to be particularly significant when tabulating Bureau of Labor Statistics data for a recent article on Young Adults & the Construction Trades.  In the 3rd quarter of 2018, over half of the remodelers reported shortages of labor in 12 of the 16 categories.  As usual, the reported shortages were most widespread for the three categories of carpenters, but over 60 percent of remodelers also reported shortages of bricklayers & masons (71 percent), concrete workers (70 percent) and drywall installers (65 percent).

NAHB began asking remodelers about labor shortages in 2013, modeling the questions on similar ones periodically asked of single-family builders in the survey for the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.  For each of the trades tracked consistently since that time, the shortages peaked in 2017, then declined slightly in 2018.  The declines ranged from 1 percentage point (for electricians) to 8 percentage points (for roofers).  It is probably not surprising that shortages finally eased slightly in the latter part of 2018, given the way residential construction activity was softening at the time (as residential construction spending declined slightly every month from July through November, and total housing starts declined slightly every month from August through December).

Although the situation improved slightly in 2018, labor shortages in the remodeling industry remain widespread compared to earlier years.  In each of the trades covered, the incidence of reported shortages was markedly higher in 2018 than in 2016.  The differences ranged from 4 percentage points higher (for finished carpenters) to 18 points higher (for bricklayers and masons).

The most common effects of the shortages have been causing remodelers to pay higher wages, forcing them to raise prices to customers, and making it difficult to complete projects on time.  These are the same three effects single-family builders cite most often.

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2 replies

  1. Well to be honest with you, California screwed themselves when it came to journeyman electricians that have years of skills. When California created the DIR we all got screwed. It had nothing to do with public safety but rather just a way to collect revenue for the state. It makes no sense that if you took an electrical test and a business test to become a C10 Electrical contractor which states as a C10 electrical contractor we can do any type of electrical installations in the state of California but can no longer work for a C10 electrical contractor. We now have to take another state electrical test in order to work as an employee for another C10 electrical contractor. That simply is just BS. In any other state in the United States an Electrical Contractor is considered a master electrician which is above a journeyman. Only California would do something Ass backwards. But let’s be honest it’s just about revenue. California if you have a shortage you deserve what you get. There are plenty of qualified electricians in California but with the state making everyone retake an electrical test we refuse to waste our time. I invested in California now I just say f___ California you get what you deserve.

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