It's So Hard to Find Good Help: Businessweek Edition

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Friday, 10 May 2013 14:12

Businessweek tells us that homebuilders would be building more homes, if only they could find qualified construction workers. Hmmm, that must mean that wages for construction workers are soaring as the shortage causes employers to bid up wages in an effort to grab workers away from competitors or hold on to their current workforce.

That's not what the data say. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, after adjusting for inflation the average hourly wage in construction has risen by just 0.9 percent in the five years from 2007 to 2012. Note that this a total increase of 0.9 percent over these five years, not an annual increase. If there is a labor shortage, it's not showing up in wages for some reason. (Of course the unemployment rate for construction workers was reported at 13.2 percent in April, which also does not seem to indicate a labor shortage.)

The more obvious explanation for the fact that construction remains depressed is the near record vacancy rates. Presumably many of these empty homes will have to be filled before builders get more aggressive about building new ones.