How Much Does Construction Rely on Immigrant Labor?

According to NAHB’s most recent American Community Survey, almost 25 percent of construction workers are foreign-born, representing an all-time high.  According to NAHB, “the time-series analysis shows that the rising share of immigrants in construction cannot be explained by an unusually high number of immigrants joining the industry. Rather, a slow, delayed and reluctant post-recession return of native-born workers underlies the shift towards the higher reliance on immigrants in the construction work force.”

The study looks at the change occurring the construction labor force between 2004 and 2016.  While the downturn significantly reduced the overall number of workers, the chart above clearly shows the share of immigrant workers remained steady around 22 percent. For reference, it is estimated that 1.7 million native-born workers left the construction industry during the housing downturn and 1.5 million have not returned.  Currently, the survey estimates that nearly 2.5 million immigrants work in construction, almost 200,000 fewer than at the height in 2007.

The flow of immigrants into the construction labor force is significantly slower than pre-recession levels, supporting the assertion that the rising percentage of immigrants in construction is not due to a sudden influx, but rather the continued absence of native-born workers.

All of this data suggests the shortage of laborers for new home construction is a systemic problem that will not be resolved in the near future.  This presents a significant opportunity for component manufacturers who offer products that require less labor to accomplish the same framing solution.

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