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


  1. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. [Photo courtesy of NOAA] NOAA
    Nearly a year after the storm, 18,000 claims are still open.
  2. Watermans Crossing apartments at 4515 N. Rome Avenue in Tampa. Westside Capital Group
    Jakub Hejl discovered the Tampa Bay area while studying at IMG Academy.
  3. The Tampa Bay Lightning has tapped Cigar City Brewing to bring its Jai Alai, Guayabera, and Florida Cracker beers to Amalie Arena as the team’s official craft beer partner. (Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning) Tampa Bay Lightning
    Cigar City also will move its popular annual Hunahpu’s Beer Festival to Amalie Arena starting next March.
  4. An administrative judge said a Pasco County ordinance allowing solar farms in agricultural districts did not violate the county's comprehensive land-use plan. Times
    An ordinance did not violate the county’s land-use plan that is supposed to protect rural Northeast Pasco, a judge said.
  5. Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) St. Petersburg Times
    Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
  6. For sale sign on a  Tampa Bay home. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
    It pays to shop around for the lowest rate, new study shows.
  7. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP
    The country is moving in that direction, though.
  8. This Jan. 31, 2017 photo shows the entrance to SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Gustavo “Gus” Antorcha cited a “difference of approach.”
  9. Gas prices could surge over the coming days because of a sharp drop in Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Pictured is a man filling up his car. | [Times file photo]
    A weekend drone strike on an oil processing facility caused the kingdom to cut production in half.
  10. TECO Peoples Gas ranked highest among its peers in the South for J.D. Power customer satisfaction rankings. Pictured is the company's headquarters in Tampa in 2017. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times (2017)] URSO, CHRIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    It ranked as the top utility for customer satisfaction among midsize utilities in the south.