The needed housing construction boom and immigrant workers

The blogger CSEN says that energizing construction of housing is essential for prosperity:

“The economic shortfall in the US right now is mostly on the housing side. Because of how important housing is to the US economy, this is why 4.7% headline unemployment doesn’t feel like full employment. Construction employment as a share of total employment is likely going to rise at least another 0.4% to get to a level of 5% in this cycle. At the current level of employment, this means we need another 550,000-600,000 construction workers. Construction unemployment is already near record lows.”

The construction workforce is 25% foreign-born and 15% undocumented workers. Building more houses at a large scale, especially in the high growth states of Florida, Texas and California, cannot be feasibly be done without a generous supply of these workers.

Here is a profile of construction workers in 2013:

22 occupations accounted for 8 million jobs. 25% of these jobs were held by immigrants and 15% were held by undocumented immigrants. The jobs in which immigrants have at least a one third share – eight – account for 44% of the construction workforce, leading with construction laborers, who make up a quarter of the construction workforce. Generally these 22 occupations do not require a high school degree and laborers definitely do not. Among Hispanic (foreign and native born) construction workers in 2007, half did not have a high school degree compared to 11% of all other construction workers.

Different correlation analyses of construction work might show that immigrant workers (1) drive down wages in some construction jobs, yet also (2) enable the construction industry to grow by providing needed workers in jobs that may be hard to fill with native workers, either because of low skill demand (laborers) or danger (roofing).

For a review of construction employment in 2007 with a focus on Hispanic workers, go here at the Center for Protection of Worker Rights.

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