Hurricane Recovery and High Demand Worsen Labor Shortage

It’s not just the areas along the Gulf Coast that are feeling the pinch of an even tighter labor market following last year’s devastating hurricanes and the rebuilding efforts that followed. Readers are aware of the perfect storm created in Houston by Hurricane Harvey, a state-level immigration crackdown, and the impending end of a federal program that shields some law-abiding young undocumented people from deportation. 

Meantime, up in Dallas-Fort Worth, tens of thousands of additional workers are needed to keep up with the demand for new homes throughout the area.

That’s no exaggeration.

The Dallas Builders Association estimates that roughly 20,000 new workers would need to enter the market to keep up with current demand. The Executive Officer of the group spoke to the Dallas Morning News:

"We are 20,000 construction workers short in D-FW despite wages rising 35 percent for most needed trades," said Phil Crone, head of the Dallas Builders Association.

"I only see the shortage easing if the demand eases, I don't see that occurring in an impactful way.  "More than 92 percent of our members cite the lack of labor as having a significant impact on their business," Crone said. "In most cases that's adding a month and more than $5,000 to every home built in our area."

So, too few people are applying for these positions even though the wages are going up, adding to the cost of each home. From a business standpoint, this naturally means this industry, and others, need more authorized workers. But the politics of immigration are much more complicated. 

Again, from the DMN: 

"Labor supply won't improve until we have a viable guest worker program," Crone said. "The tone of the administration and the approaching midterm elections don't provide much hope for that."

Builders in Southeast Texas who are scrambling to repair or replace thousands of Hurricane Harvey damaged homes say they can't get the workers needed.

"Before the hurricane came, we were already experiencing a labor shortage, particularly in skilled labor," said Dan Bawden, a Houston builder and remodeler. "If you lose your cabinet maker or carpenter, you are in trouble."

Bawden said the tight construction labor market in Texas will be even more pinched in 2018.

"We are just now beginning to start the flood rebuild process," he said. "People are just now starting to get their FEMA checks."


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