Contractors cry for immigration reform to ease labor shortage
By Rebecca Schuetz
A prolonged shortage of construction workers has the Associated General Contractors of America calling for immigration reform.
“We recognize it’s important to have safe borders,” said Kenneth D. Simonson, the group’s chief economist. “But it’s also really important for the growth of the U.S. economy to make sure that we have a large enough workforce.”
A workforce survey that the contractors’ group released Wednesday showed that 78 percent of construction firms in Texas report difficulty finding qualified construction workers. That difficulty persists despite some growth in the labor market.
Houston leads the nation in a recent analysis of construction employment growth, with the industry booming in the year following Hurricane Harvey, according to Simonson. The metro area including Houston, the Woodlands and Sugar Land has added 25,500 construction jobs between July of 2017 and 2018, a 12 percent increase.
Still, local construction firms are scrambling for workers.
Mike Holland, the chief operating officer of building company Marek, which worked on Lakewood Church and the Texas Medical Center, agreed with Simonson that immigration reform is key.
“Our economic viability is based on access to skilled labor and of course … we have a problem,” Holland said. The solution to that problem, he explained, would be to face the reality that the construction industry has a large immigrant workforce. “We can’t solve the problem with subtraction.”
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