For years, North Texas’ builders have lamented a dire construction labor shortage, blaming it for project delays and adding to already surging home prices.
Industry leaders have tried lots of fixes. They’ve worked to convince more school kids that they can make a good living by learning a construction trade instead of heading to a four-year university. Wages have gone up too, by a lot.
None of that seems likely to pay off any time soon, though, which leaves people like Phil Crone in the unenviable position of asking the Trump administration to tackle immigration reform.
“I’m here trying to make our congressional delegation aware of it,” Crone, executive officer of the Dallas Builders Association, said during a recent visit to Washington, D.C. “I have no illusions that any of the solutions are going to come.”
Still, industry leaders — who say they are at least 20,000 workers short — haven’t given up hope that smaller changes to guest worker programs are within reach.
The stakes, they say, are high. Labor-driven cost increases can price thousands of families out of an already tight home market, which in turn threatens economic momentum in one of the fastest growing metros in the nation.
The president, Crone said, has made a difficult situation worse for the immigrant workers who form the base of the churning economic growth Texas officials love to boast about.
Foreign-born workers made up close to 40 percent of the construction workforce in Texas, according to an analysis of 2013 American Community Survey data by the National Association of Homebuilders.
“The issue predates President Trump, so blaming him for the current shortage is a bit misguided,” he wrote in a recent post for association members. “His enforcement actions and talk of walls and deportation are most certainly part of the problem.”
The result is skittishness from workers who already have little incentive to stick with employers from job to job.
By Jill Cowan for Dallas News
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