Homebuilders Report Shortages of Skilled Labor and Subcontractors

August 8, 2016

Shortages of labor and subcontractors in the single-family home building sector are becoming increasingly widespread, according to the findings of a survey of conducted by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB).

The survey of homebuilders conducted in June 2016 consisted of special questions on labor and subcontractor availability that the NAHB periodically adds to the instrument for the monthly NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.

The results indicated that averaged across the nine skilled trades, the percentage of companies reporting a shortage increased in 2016 to 56%, from 52% in 2015, 46% in 2014, and a low of 21% in 2012. The respondents reported having the greatest difficulties hiring:

  • critical carpentry workers, both rough (72%) and finish (70%)

  • framers (68%)

  • bricklayers (57%)

  • painters (50%)

  • electricians (48%)

  • plumbers (47%)

  • roofers (45%)

  • excavators (44%)

  • HVAC technicians (42%)

The survey also found that homebuilders are reporting even more severe shortages of subcontractors in 2016. More than three-quarters of respondents said they are finding it difficult to hire subcontractors in rough carpentry (78%) and in framing (78%). Of the other trades covered in the survey, the most acute shortages were reported for finish carpentry (73%), bricklaying (67%), plumbing (56%), roofing (55%), painting (54%), electrical (55%), excavating (53%), and HVAC (48%) crews.

When asked about the effects of these shortages, large shares of the builders surveyed said they have been forced to pay higher wages/subcontractor bids (75%) or to raise home prices (68%), and that the shortages are making it difficult to complete projects on time (58%).

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