The typical person who filed for unemployment in 2008 was not a construction-related individual. When construction first began to
retract, most of those that could work kept working in smaller capacities
even though the big multifamily development had halted. There was an
early expectation that this downturn would only last about 12 to 18
months. Many construction guys, who eventually started working for
cash, lost their capability to file for unemployment, so their percentage
of joblessness was not easily calculated through government statisticians. To survive, those craftsmen moved away or found different forms
Whereas five years ago, new developments would start before others
were completed and crews were able to roll through all the projects, it
appears that today, everybody’s got a brand new project starting. We’re
all at the same phase in the process and need projects started at the
same time. We’re all going to need framers, for example, at the same
This brings up a really interesting problem when it comes to qualified
manpower. Skilled labor is really the key to construction and to find that
skilled labor again after such a long down time is going to be an inherent
challenge. I’m familiar with a person who has his finger on the pulse of
most of the construction that is going on, and six months ago he recently
had a quiver of 15 superintendents that wanted to work. He is still get-
ting calls from owners who are looking for superintendents but his
quiver is empty, and the good superintendents are busy. It’s an interest-
ing problem. And I’m commenting only about Los Angeles—that’s not
considering San Diego or San Francisco.
Sterling Lund is an Orange County, CA-based regional
vice president of Mike Rovner Construction Inc. He
may be contacted at email@example.com.
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