Report: Immigration slowdown contributing to construction labor shortage

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. construction industry has lost 570,000 Mexican-born workers since 2007, and that loss has contributed to the industry's ongoing labor shortage, according to a report from John Burns Real Estate Consulting, Inc., a homebuilding industry analyst firm.
  • Many workers who returned to Mexico during the real estate crisis have not come back to the U.S. due to increased immigration controls and more job opportunities in Mexico, the report said.
  • The U.S. Commerce Department found a 67% decline in immigration to the U.S. from Mexico between 2006 and 2013. 

Dive Insight:

Opportunities closer to Mexico, a less hospitable attitude toward Mexican immigration in the U.S. and increased use of employment eligibility system E-Verify are all reasons that some Mexican workers are staying out of the U.S., the Burns report said. The analyst firm does not take a position on immigration policy. 

In the face of a construction labor shortage, the lack of Mexican workers choosing to come to the U.S. casts greater doubt on the industry’s ability to meet current and future housing demands. For example, employment of residential specialty trade contractors is at 1.8 million workers, almost 28% fewer than when the market was at its peak in 2006.

Roy Weatherford, owner of the Apex Foundation in Houston, TX, told The Wall Street Journal that training young people in the U.S. for jobs in the construction industry is the answer to the labor shortage, not trying to get workers to return from Mexico. 

"There is work in Mexico," Weatherford said. "They’ve opened plants in Mexico. Look how many car manufacturers have moved to Mexico. They can work there, and if they’re making a living, they’d all rather be home."

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Filed Under: Economy Legal/Regulation
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