Man power shortage causes delays, bloats cost for construction projects
By Armie Margaret Lee
A manpower deficit created by South Florida's building frenzy is bloating construction costs and causing project delays, industry insiders said.
"Definitely there's a shortage," said Richard Horton, president of the Builders Association of South Florida. "I don't think the subcontractors can keep up with the pace. They can't find enough qualified people to do all the jobs out there."
Mr. Horton, executive vice president of the Green Companies and president of its affiliate, Green Construction Corp., said construction costs have gone up 25% as the industry is confronted with labor and material shortfalls.
Harley Miller, president of Fort Lauderdale-based Miller Construction Co., said the region is caught in a crunch between high demand and a lack of materials and labor.
"The marketplace is very busy. We are strapped for cement, for example, and other materials."
With much of the development activity centering on condos, other types of construction have suffered, he said.
"The condo market is utilizing so much labor and materials. The other markets that are not so strong are being impacted by price escalations," Mr. Miller said.
The latest figures released by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation pegged the job growth in the construction industry at 5.7%, with 27,700 jobs added across the state in May. The specialty trade contractor subsector led the rise with 13,500 new jobs, a 4.5% increase over last year.
"Construction has shown strong over-the-year growth since mid-2003 as low mortgage rates, investment and population increases continued to fuel much of this expansion," the state's labor department said.
But the growth is not sufficient to cover the volume of construction, experts said.
"Much of the work that's available could be twice that," Mr. Miller said. "Everybody who wants to work is already working."
The answer to the problem, he said, may involve tapping the overseas labor pool. "I don't think there's much of a solution to it other than bringing people from other countries who are willing to work in jobs that people here don't want," he said.
Mr. Horton said the builders association is working with the Miami-Dade County School System to establish programs aimed at developing the skills of high-school graduates.
"A lot of kids have the skills," he said, "but they're not aware of what's available in the industry, income-wise and achievement-wise."