NAHB members are increasingly noting concerns about the cost and availability of construction labor as demand for housing rises. Realizing that immigrant workers are a significant source of recruits to the construction industry and in light of lawmakers’ ongoing debate over national immigration policy (more on that subject later in this report), our economists have analyzed recent Census Bureau data to determine the actual impact of this worker subset on different parts of the country.
Their latest special study, “Immigrant Workers in the Construction Labor Force,” shows that the population of immigrant construction workers is not evenly distributed across the U.S., with more than a third of that group residing in the five states of California, Texas, New York, New Jersey and Florida. But the study also points out that reliance on foreign-born labor appears to be spreading outside of these traditional immigrant magnets, and is evident in states such as Georgia, North Carolina, Connecticut, Virginia, Illinois and Colorado, where immigrants now account for more than 20% of the construction labor force. States that rely heavily on foreign born labor but lost a significant share of those workers during the housing downturn — such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Georgia — are most likely to experience difficulties in filling out construction job vacancies once home building takes off, economists note.
In addition to providing a state-by-state breakout of the share of immigrants in the construction labor force, NAHB’s study also identifies where most immigrant workers in construction primarily come from (Mexico) and which jobs are most heavily reliant on immigrant workers (carpenters, laborers, painters, roofers, brick masons, drywall/ceiling tile installers and others), along with other useful data. Read the full study here