Nothing but Good News for Western Roofing Contractors
It’s no secret that the construction economy is on the rise nationwide, and once again, the West is leading the charge. In this issue, we have the results of our annual steep-slope roofing survey, which includes product market shares. There are no big surprises here, but it is interesting to note that over the last few years, while the overall market volume has risen, the market share for reroofing has steadily declined. This is a clear indication of rising new housing starts in the West.
It’s also interesting that the market share for asphalt shingles has remained steady over the years, and has been capturing a bigger share of the new residential construction market. Much of the new housing market in the West used to go to tile or metal, with asphalt shingles focusing on the reroofing segment. In the last decade, fiberglass shingle manufacturers have focused their sales on their high-end product line, and it has paid off.
As mentioned numerous times in this publication, the biggest issue facing Western roofing contractors has been getting enough qualified workers on the roof. This one factor has been limiting the growth of many contractors and creating delays in the completion of construction jobs.
Despite the fact that construction jobs are being created and in some cases filled, it’s not enough. According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), “Construction employment increased by 19,000 jobs in July and by 303,000 jobs over the past year, reaching a ten-year high, while the industry’s unemployment rate and level hit an all-time low. Association officials said it was likely firms would have added even more workers if they could find qualified candidates to hire.”
“The construction industry has added workers at nearly three times the rate of the economy as a whole, and the job gains are showing up in both residential and non-residential construction,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC. “However, it is getting harder for contractors to find workers despite offering above-average pay and good career advancement opportunities.”
The AGC states that construction employment reached over seven million workers in the last month, with an average pay of $29.86 an hour. This is a 3.2% increase in pay over the last year, but it’s obviously still not enough to encourage people entering the job market to go into the construction industry. I believe that a large part of the blame for this job discrepancy lies with our educational system. It’s a system that encourages students to believe that a college education and a desk job are preferable to a craft that requires hands-on skills. Less than 30% of the jobs in the United States require a college degree, yet the myth continues that the path through a four-year college is the best plan for everyone.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix. Until skill and craftsmanship are once again valued as much as a college degree, jobs that emphasize working with your hands will be undervalued in the eyes of the general public.