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Where are all the construction workers?

Ask most any employer right now and they’ll tell you the same thing: attracting and retaining a competitive workforce is one of their biggest concerns at the moment.

Wow. What a difference this recovery is (finally) making.

One of the sectors feeling the pain most is construction. The housing crash sent many construction workers fleeing to other industries. Now that housing is recovering, builders have been struggling to find skilled workers.

That’s because the construction workers who left the industry in droves during the recession aren’t exactly flocking back.

No wonder, really. The National Association of Home Builders reports that unemployment among construction workers peaked at 22 percent during the recession.  Many, naturally, found jobs in other industries and are reluctant today to return.

That’s why 60 percent of builders surveyed say the shortage has forced them to delay projects in the last six months, or even raise home prices.

A recent survey released by the National Association of Home Builders sheds some additional light on what’s happening.

The survey showed that the specific tradesmen that are most in demand tend to be framers and carpenters — trades whose skills are fairly specific to putting up new homes and less transferable to other fields.

Painters, roofers, electricians and other workers who might have found employment doing remodeling or other improvement work throughout the downturn have been easier to come by, according to the builders’ survey.

The upshot may be that the framers and carpenters — who are both harder to find right now and who may have had fewer work opportunities during the downturn — may have quit the sector entirely.

The bottom line? We need to train and attract more workers in the construction industry.

About the Author


Larry Hannappel

Larry spent 16 years with Century Casino’s and was instrumental in the start-up and growth of the company through expansions in Canada, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Poland and on several cruise ships as well as in Colorado. He was most recently the SVP, Principal Finance Officer and COO of North American operations for Century Casinos Inc., a multinational, Nasdaq-traded gaming company. Earlier in his career, Larry worked at the Johns Manville Corp. Larry spent 13 years in various accounting and finance functions in the company’s fiberglass manufacturing division and was key in the start-up of a molding plant in Indiana. Larry and his wife Kathy and three children live in Colorado. He enjoys four-wheeling, motorcycling, golfing, skiing and brewing beer.

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