Courtesy Adobe Stock/kuzmafoto

In a piece for MarketWatch, staffer Andrew Riquer writes that in order to fill the labor gap, builders may soon hire more women and even use robots to construct more homes.

In 2006 - the peak of the housing bubble - about 3.4 million workers were employed in the construction industry. By 2010, that number was down to less than 2 million. Many of the men who had worked in construction pivoted to other trades, such as energy, or they retired, or started collecting disability insurance. In a touch-and-go housing recovery, it was hard for many builders to pay enough in wages or guarantee enough hours for workers to lure them back, especially those who remembered the trauma of the housing bubble bursting and the uncertainty it brought. Many simply aged out.

Paul Cardis, CEO of Avid Ratings, a home builder customer survey and data provider, said the labor shortage is the top issue confronting the industry. The issue has been magnified in recent years by the crackdown on illegal immigration.

And according to the NAHB, of the 2.8 million people in residential construction, only 9% are women. But that percentage is expected to rise. Rob Dietz, the economist for the industry association, agrees. “I particularly challenge remodelers and builders to recruit more women,” he said. “I think that will occur as the industry capitalizes.”

On the modular building front, Dietz estimates that only about 3% of all homes are built in a factory now. “You would think builders would start thinking about trying to improve productivity,” Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics said. But the industry is simply far more fragmented across mom-and-pop businesses than, say, fintech, where a few deep-pocketed giants like Apple or Google can get new innovations adopted quickly.

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