Friday, June 14

Arizona’s Construction Worker Shortage : A Homebuilder’s Headache

Arizona is not keeping up with national construction job growth, recent data shows. This is according to a report by KTAR News. The United States broke this decade’s record by adding 58,000 construction jobs nationally, according to the most recent Employment Situation Summary, while the number of Arizona construction workers has actually gone down.

While the 2006 housing boom sparked the hiring of more than 240,000 construction workers statewide, this number is now down to 134,000, according to the news report. Citing economist Rick Merritt, KTAR News reports that this has caused builders to pay higher wages. It has also caused the actual building process to take longer. This increase in time and money could outweigh money-saving techniques such as the installation of vinyl siding, which costs 11% less than cedar siding and 26% less than aluminum siding.

“The biggest complaint we hear from contractors and homebuilders is that there just isn’t enough labor,” Merritt said in a statement to KTAR News. “And if we really see a construction boom, particularly in the housing market, the homebuilders are concerned that they won’t be able to keep up with demand.”

If a boom in the economy happens with this increase in construction demands, we could see the situation improve, Greg Burger, president of RL Brown Housing Reports, said in a statement to KTAR News.

“The average build-time has improved approximately seven working days compared to several months ago,” he said. “We anticipate that as the economy strengthens and as the labor force increases and construction jobs specifically are brought on here locally, that will in fact help diminish the build-time that we currently are experiencing.”

To further complicate this issue, a recent report shows that the state unemployment rate increased slightly in February. According to Arizona Public Media, a report by the State Office of Economic Opportunity reported that unemployment bumped up by one-tenth of a percent in February. This makes the current unemployment rate 5.1%.

Despite this bump, however, the report showed overall job growth. Arizona Public Media reports that the state gained 27,100 jobs in 10 of the 11 sectors. At this time, state employment rates are 2% higher than last year. While most of this growth happened in government, education, and leisure and hospitality, the construction industry saw 4,000 jobs added.

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