How the Housing Market Gave Jobs a Big Bump

The housing industry, after years of struggle, appears to be turning a corner—and as a result, construction is becoming a quickly growing field in need of more skilled labor. That poses a challenge for associations in the industry.

When Friday’s job report looked significantly better than anyone expected, one industry stood head and shoulders above the rest—and if only they could find the right people, things could look even better.

More details on how the housing market is giving employment a big boost:

The jobs numbers: On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the economy added 236,000 jobs in February—significantly more than the 165,000 jobs analysts expected, according to The New York Times. As a result of the increase, the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008. The numbers are leading some analysts to suggest that unemployment could fall below 7 percent by the end of the year. But the news wasn’t uniformly upbeat—most notably, the U-6 unemployment rate, which includes marginally attached workers and people stuck in part-time jobs for economic reasons, dipped only slightly, staying at a fairly high 14.3 percent.

Construction turnaround: With home prices and home sales both up and foreclosures on the way down, one of the fundamental problems that led to the financial crisis of 2008 is starting to turn around. Of the jobs added in February, 48,000 came from the construction industry, reflecting the newfound demand for new homes. The field has added 151,000 jobs in the past five months alone.

The search for skilled labor:  The National Association of Home Builders is working to support this ongoing growth. The challenge: NAHB predicts that hiring for residential construction jobs will continue to pick up dramatically in 2013, but many of the workers who were in the industry during the last housing boom have left, and it will be difficult to get them to come back. “Our members are hiring so much that they’re starting to get worried about finding enough labor out there,” said Paul Emrath, an economist with the association, in an interview with CNNMoney. “Most are talking about adding people.” This is a relatively recent concern for the organization’s members—51 percent said in a recent study that they were concerned about finding laborers, versus 11 percent in 2011. In particular, members cited a limited number of carpenters and framers.

It may be good news for the economy that construction jobs are picking up serious steam, but it creates a pressing challenge for the industry’s associations. How do you help your industry develop its workforce? Let us know your thoughts.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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