Advertisement
  1. Business

Trigaux: Where did all the construction workers go? Florida builders can't find them

Skilled construction workers are in short supply in Florida, where builders are having a tough time filling jobs as demand for development climbs. One builder called it an "epidemic." (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) NYBZ912
Published Aug. 29, 2015

With construction cranes and new home building becoming ever more familiar sights in Florida, it's getting tougher to find skilled workers to keep up with rising demand.

Small wonder. Florida added 4,800 construction jobs in July — more than any other state.

In the past 12 months, Florida's gain of 26,500 construction jobs was second only to larger California, according to a recent analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data by the Associated General Contractors of America. The findings show an uneven national rebound in construction. While the Florida economy is a clear beneficiary, other states saw sharp declines in construction jobs, led by New York's 4,500 job loss in July and Ohio's 13,800 decline in the past year.

Florida's building boomlet, though, is driving up wages, which in turn adds to the final cost of commercial buildings and new homes. Average hourly earnings for construction labor were up 2.6 percent annually in July, compared with 2.1 percent for all U.S. workers. Those wage bumps have not stemmed the increase in spot shortages of carpenters and, especially in the South, plumbers and electricians.

"I would go so far as to call it an epidemic," National Association of Home Builders CEO Jerry Howard told USA Today this week. The shortages have helped drive up new home prices an average 5.7 percent over the past 12 months.

In Florida, the numbers reflect the state's ongoing struggle to rebuild a construction workforce that lost more than half of its jobs during the recession as skilled workers fled to states like North Dakota and Texas to find employment.

"We are badly in need of skilled laborers to fill the gaps now that construction jobs are booming again, specifically plumbers, electricians and drywall finishers," Doreen DiPolito, owner and president of Clearwater's D-Mar General Contracting, told trade magazine Builder this summer. Her firm, in addition to handling home building, also works on projects with McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and Quiznos, among other companies.

"The shortage is horrible. It is hard to find people to work," she said. "Definitely a different story than a few years ago."

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tech Data's CEO Rich Hume (left) shares a moment with former CEO Bob Dutkowsky during a send off celebration for Dutkowsky earlier this year. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
    A private equity firm has agreed to buy Tech Data.
  2. Joseph Erickson, 53, looks out the window at the gulf-[front condo he thought he won at a foreclosure auction last year.t JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    "There have been serious allegations,'' Judge Keith Meyer said.
  3. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Shoppers in Tampa Bay can now skip the line and cash out alcohol on their own phones.
  4. Which cars hold their value best in Tampa Bay? Pictured is traffic in Tampa Bay in 2017. [Times file photo] ELLIOTT, LOREN  |  Elliott, Loren
    For the top spots, think big and rugged.
  5. A rendering of the planned Pinstripes bowling, bocce and bistro space that is planned to open at International Plaza alongside a Cinemex in spring 2021. Pinstripes
    In addition to upscale bowling and movies, there will also be bocce ball and a bistro.
  6. Tech Data's headquarters in Largo. TD AGENCY  |  Courtesy of Tech Data
    The company is being sold to a private equity firm.
  7. St. Petersburg's new 26-acre Pier District, with components that will include a coastal thicket walking path, marketplace, playground and pavilion, is nearing completion. Shown is the tilted lawn in front of the Pier head building that is being created  with Geofoam, soil and grass. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    St. Petersburg hopes to sell naming rights in the Pier District — available for annual payments of $50,000 to $1 million for 10-year terms — to help offset taxpayer subsidies.
  8. Tech Data chief executive officer Rich Hume talks to company employees about the pending acquisition of Tech Data for $5.4 billion at a global town hall meeting on Wednesday morning. David Kiester | Tech Data
    Apollo Global Management has offered $130 per share of Tech Data stock. If shareholders approve, the home-grown company will remain based in Pinellas County.
  9. Isabella Yosuico of Safety Harbor with some of the Mighty Tykes wrist and ankle bands she invted to help her son Isaac, who has Down Syndrome, and other children with weak muscles. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A product to help special needs kids leads to big loans, a lawsuit and a bungled bankruptcy
  10. The Pinellas County Commission moved closer Tuesday to granting a total of $20.6 million to three museums: the Salvidor Dali Museum (top), the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center (bottom left), and the St. Petersburg Museum of History. Photos courtesy of Pinellas County
    The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg Museum of History and Tampa Bay Watch are on track to receive bed tax dollars for expansions.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement