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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 1, 2019 3 months ago

Labor short, materials tight in 2019

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Hurricanes, fears of housing slowdowns may mean construction materials pinch for Florida builders. 

The continued shortage of qualified labor in construction trades will continue to drive up wages and put a strain on the supply and pricing of new homes in 2019, says Ryan Benson, president of the Collier Builders Industry Association and president of A Vernon Allen Builder in Naples. 

Benson, also a delegate to the boards of the Florida Home Builders Association and the National Association of Homebuilders, also predicts cost of materials will reflect a shortage of availability while manufacturers remain hesitant to increase production in the face of nationwide housing market uncertainty.

Florida homebuilders will then feel the resulting materials pricing pressure as the market remains strong here, Benson says, exacerbated by the short-term need for materials, particularly roofing. “The hurricanes this past year caused problems with all roofing materials and that continues because we are talking lead times on roof tiles of six months, which is fine when you have an 18-month project but is a big problem for a six-month project,” Benson says.

While the home construction market in Florida shows continued strength, manufacturers are concerned about signs of an overall national slowdown. “Production facilities are hesitant to invest in additional infrastructure over concerns about a possible reduction in demand in 2019 or 2020,” says Benson. “In Florida we are going to see continued demand, but as supplies from national manufacturers go, so goes the nation.”

Despite being one of the states most severely affected by the housing downturn, Florida had the second-most residential construction workers in the nation at 361,000 — less than one-third of the 2006 total, according to National Association of Homebuilders data. And in Florida, residential construction workers account for 3.9% of the employed state labor, well above the national average of 2.5%.

It’s still not enough, impacting every market regionwide. 

“There is a lack of skilled labor," says Benson, "and we've been trying to address that on several fronts and letting even students at the high school level know there can be very lucrative professions in construction." 

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