Labor shortage delaying projects, increasing costs in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A nationwide labor shortage is delaying construction in Charlotte and could cost consumers money.

Homebuilders said they're struggling to fill critical positions for electricians, framers and other skilled workers amid a surge in new home construction.

The most recent survey from Metrostudy found crews started building roughly 11,000 new homes in 2016, a 5 percent jump from 2015.

Experts said a low supply of resources and high demand for work are the perfect storm and said there are three big reasons why there aren't enough workers to do the job.

Mike Carpinelli's construction and remodeling business is so busy, he's booking jobs six weeks out.

"I'm refusing jobs because we are so booked at this point," Carpinelli said.

Like other contractors, sometimes he delays projects until he can find framers, electricians and other workers who are in low supply as the nation grapples with a labor shortage.

The growing housing market is increasing demand for workers. Many skilled laborers left the industry during the recession and never returned, and some subcontractors report concerns over immigration are keeping some workers away, according to experts at the North Carolina Homebuilders Association.

Carpinelli is also struggling to recruit young people. Most of his workers are over 40 years old.

Competition is so tight, some contractors take workers from job sites.

"They do steal guys often," Carpinelli said.

For now, it's a good problem for contractors, but consumers are stuck with the costs.

"It's going to be more expensive for the purchaser because the skilled laborer is asking for more money," Carpinelli said.

In this construction boom, he said skilled workers are worth the price.

Some builders are investing in apprenticeship programs
and are working with community colleges to train more workers.

Consumers may pay more for new construction and remodeling work since the laborers in demand all come from the same talent pool.

Remarks on the labor and home-building market from Steve Francis, division president of Fielding Homes:

Demand for new homes picked up in 2013 coming out of the recession and has remained at consistent levels since. The labor market has struggled to catch up locally, especially within skilled trades like plumbers and carpenters, for several reasons, including:

  • Labor exited the market for other opportunities during the recession and has not returned
  • Charlotte has one of the hottest apartment markets in the country, which is absorbing a disproportionate share of the local trade base relative to other markets

Labor becomes especially tight during times of peak construction, the second half of the year when most builders are trying meet their annual business plans, as well as fill new order demand from the strong spring selling season.

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