How the Construction Labor Shortage Impacts Your Roofing Plans

houses under construction

There is a major labor shortage in the United States for skilled labor jobs. Home renovations, like roof replacements and other forms of construction, require specialized training and experience and can’t be performed by just anyone.

According to GAF, “Roughly 200,000 construction jobs sit unfilled in the United States. […] An overwhelming majority - 82% - of firms expect it will either become harder or remain difficult to recruit and hire qualified workers in 2018, up from 76 percent last year.”

What is creating this overwhelming need for skilled contractors, and how does it impact homeowners?

3 Possible Causes of the Labor Shortage

There are a number of possible reasons for such a skim labor force, but industry experts often point to three main factors:

1. Perception

Roofing jobs

The perception of trade careers is viewed more negatively now than ever before.

The emphasis on vocational training is largely downplayed versus the idea of a college education.

The overall impression is that trades, like general construction and roofing, are not worthy career paths.

To make matters worse, the negative perception of craft occupations only creates a larger deficit in skilled labor. The less glamorous the role, the less attractive the position becomes.

The perception of the skilled labor positions needs to be changed through both the educational system and the construction industry.

2. Housing crisis

Roofing industry

According to GAF, the great recession and housing crisis of 2008 lost almost 40% of the construction workforce to other career choices. And the majority of these workers simply never returned.

Despite the gradual uptick in the economy and demand for new homes, construction is not viewed as a stable and reliable career option.

When such a huge chunk of the workforce left, they took their experience and expertise with them. Today, there are less highly trained professionals to properly teach the few recruits who do come through the door.

3. Immigration policy

roofer installing underlayment

As the demographics of the United States continue to change, one fact remains constant and hard-fast: Immigrants, mainly from Mexico, account for nearly all the growth in the construction labor force.

According to research from The National Association of Home Builders, nearly 30% of the United States' construction labor force is foreign-born, yet immigrant labor, and immigrants in general, are often viewed as a nuisance at best and a threat at worst.

Instead of being evaluated as human individuals, immigrants are largely just a talking point among many of the political elite. Because of harsher treatment of immigrants and incredibly strict policies for entering the country illegally, labor that could be supplied through hard-working foreigns has begun to slow, putting even more stress on construction and roofing employers.

The construction labor shortage will not be solved overnight. Thankfully, leading manufacturers and qualified construction companies are taking the lead to attract and retain new talent. It’s a long process, but getting the word out to skilled, motivated, and underemployed people is a great first step. From kids just entering the job market to unsatisfied adults, they all need to be aware that good-paying, prideful work is waiting to be fulfilled.

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What this means for homeowners

Roofing industry

The skilled labor shortage has a direct impact on homeowners looking to renovate their homes.

Because of the lack of skilled contractors available, labor costs are higher than normal and the start date may be further in the future than anticipated.

Labor costs make up a significant percentage of the overall cost of a roofing project, sometimes up to half of the total price. This is much higher than it was a few decades earlier when labor costs only constituted about a quarter of the total bill.

Start times and completion dates will likely be later than originally planned, too. As the labor shortage persists, roofing companies and other contractors have to contend with the same amount of leads but with less qualified employees. Some requests will be delayed or dropped altogether simply because they don't have adequate manpower to get it done in time. 

It also means homeowners need to exercise caution when choosing a contractor. Research potential contractors carefully and check into their references and company history. Hometown provides a plethora of resources on how to choose the best contractor for the job.

The labor shortage will likely persist for years to come, but being aware of higher labor costs and the likelihood of a waiting period will help you plan out future renovations and repairs to your home. 

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