More than eight years after the housing bust drive thousands of construction workers out the residential construction industry, homebuilders today are scrambling to find enough workers get the work completed on time. According to an NBC report, the housing bust drove an estimated 30 percent of construction workers into new fields. Today, the National Association of Homebuilders estimates that there are an estimated 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S. – a jump of 81 percent in the last two years.  John Courson, chief executive of the Home Builders Institute, a national nonprofit that trains workers in the construction field, said the ratio of construction job openings to hiring is at its highest level since 2007.

“The labor shortage is getting worse as demand is getting stronger.”

Jay Small is the owner of a Denver company that frames houses. He is building about 1,300 new homes this year. With labor costs rising, homebuilders are building more expensive homes to maintain their margins, which means they are abandoning the starter home market. Small said that he could construct at least 10 percent more homes this year if he had enough workers. But he remains short-staffed, despite raising pay to levels above what he paid during the housing bubble a decade ago.

“It’s getting to the point where you’re really limited in what you can deliver. We lost so many people in the crash, and we’re just not getting them back.”

Homebuilding is facing a labor crisis as the economy recovers and demand increases.

Construction costs are rising – 13.7 percent higher now than in 2007 – and that is outpacing the total costs of building and selling a house – a figure that includes such items as land costs, financing and marketing, which is up just 2.9 percent over the same period, according to a survey by the National Association of Homebuilders. Private companies say that they are having a hard time attracting workers, and they are often forced to give employees on-the-spot raises to prevent them from going to competitors. Tony Rader, the vice president of Schwob Building Co., a general contractor in the Dallas area, has resorted to handing out flyers at sporting events, churches and schools in hopes of luring more people into the field.

“The biggest problem I face every day is where are we going to find the people to do the work.”

Colorado alone will need 30,000 more workers in the construction field in the next six years, a number that does not account for those who will retire, according to a study by the Association of General Contractors. Michael Smith, who heads a Denver-based nonprofit that administers the training, told NBC that he can’t fill the seats. High schools are focused on preparing students for college, ignoring those that may be better suited for vocational work.

“We’ve so demonized working with your hands in this country. We’ve got a booming economy, and we can’t keep up with the pace of growth.”

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