Foreign-Born Workers Closing The Construction Labor Gap

Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, workers have been slow to return to the construction industry. That’s because many laborers who struggled to find work during the recession’s darkest days felt they had no choice but to leave the industry entirely and search for work elsewhere.

Now that the housing market is strengthening again, contractors are sorely missing the skilled laborers who left the industry. And increasingly, foreign-born laborers are filling the construction labor gap.


Percentage of Immigrant Construction Laborers Increasing

The construction labor gap is increasingly being filled by foreign-born workersAccording to a report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the percentage of immigrant laborers in the construction industry has steadily increased since the housing market started to improve in 2016.

The NAHB’s report attributes this rise in immigrant laborers to the “delayed and reluctant post-recession return of native-born workers” to the construction industry.

The percentage of foreign-born workers is particularly high in carpentry, painting, drywall, and brick masonry.

On average, immigrant workers account for 1 in 4 construction laborers in the U.S. But in some states, the percentages are much higher:

  • California: 42%
  • Texas: 41%
  • New York and Nevada: 37%
  • Florida: 35%


Foreign-Born Workers In Other Industries

Immigrant workers make up about 17% of the entire American workforce.

The construction labor gap is increasingly being filled by foreign-born workersBut despite the higher-than-average percentage of foreign-born workers in the construction industry, other industries rely even more heavily on immigrant laborers.

The “personal appearance industry” (i.e. the beauty industry) has by far the highest percentage of foreign-born workers, at 63%. These jobs include nail technicians, makeup artists, shampooers and skin care specialists.

Second on the list of jobs most likely to employ foreign-born workers is agricultural “graders and sorters,” or workers who stop bad fruits and vegetables from reaching supermarket shelves.

Only the number three job on the list – “plasterer and stucco masons” is a construction-industry job. 36% of the workers holding this position are immigrants.



Sources: CNN Money, NAHB






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