Thursday, June 20, 2013

Site Builders Face Shortage of Framers and Finishers

Where have all the carpenters gone? Site builders across the United States are scratching their heads for an answer as they struggle to assemble crews to keep up with growing demand. Too bad they don’t know about modular housing where there are plenty of skilled framers and finish workers.

In some parts of the country, the shortage of skilled carpenters – especially framers – is so bad that builders cannot get projects off the ground and it is taking as much as two months longer than normal to complete a project.

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“Right now I have framing material sitting on the job site with the foundation on the ground,” said Stephen Paul, executive vice president at Mid-Atlantic Builders in Rockville, Maryland. “It’s been sitting there a week because I have not been able to get a framer to start the house.”

According to a National Association of Home Builders survey published last month, 48 per cent of single-family home builders could not find framing crews in the first three months of this year, and builders in all four regions struggled. In the middle of last year, that figure stood at just 30 per cent.

The demand for labor has been driven by the decisive recovery the housing sector is finally mounting. According to industry figures released on Monday, a majority of U.S. home builders view conditions for new construction as favorable for the first time since the housing crisis began seven years ago, and home prices have been climbing.

To be sure, it’s hard to explain a labor shortage when unemployment in the sector is over 10 per cent, and some argue that builders just need to pay more. Paying more to get unskilled labor is not the answer.

Still, a labor shortage and pricey materials may hold back new home construction and help push prices higher as demand outstrips supply, realtors and economists say.

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