As fast as North Texas is growing, it might surprise you to know that the growth comes in spite of a significant skilled labor shortage in the local construction industry.
Construction companies in Dallas-Fort Worth report that they have between 10,000 to 20,000 jobs that are currently unfilled, according to the Dallas Builders Association.
DBA president Michael Turner, who runs Classic Urban Homes, said it takes his crew eight to nine months to finish a home when it used to only take about six months. That delay translates into a higher cost for the customer.
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“What we’re strapped with is during the recession we lost about 50 percent of the labor force and they just really haven’t come back,” he said. “So we are trying to do more work with half as much workforce as what we had previously.”
Due to the lack of qualified workers, Turner said he and other employers must pay more to retain the good workers they do have. For example, a qualified bricklayer recently would fetch about $10 per hour. Today, Turner pays his bricklayers $18 to $19 per hour.
A survey of the construction industry in Texas from 2013 revealed that nearly 40 percent of construction workers were foreigners, with many of those people being Mexicans.
DBA executive director Phil Crone went to the White House recently to meet with representatives of the Trump Administration, along with other members of the home building industry to make sure Washington is aware of what’s at stake in Dallas-Fort Worth. Crone noted there is a lot of disconnect between support for the President’s talk of a border wall with Mexico and the reality of the modern construction industry.
“A lot of this misunderstanding has been created by the rhetoric of the president, and there has been a lot of focus on enforcement action and people who are here and who may need to not be here,” he said. “But the vast majority of the people that are working on the job site are just well-meaning people, they have a great work ethic [and] we need them to get the job done here.”
Crone does praise the President’s proposal to expand the H-2B guest worker visa program that currently allows 66,000 non-agricultural workers from foreign countries to work in the United States. President Trump’s budget proposal would double that number.
“I think it’s going to take a long time before [the worker shortage situation] gets better around here,” he said. “If we continue to see the demand that we are seeing in the DFW area, more than 100,000 jobs coming in, 20,000 workers short. That [will take] a long time to bridge that gap.”