Help Wanted: local construction business seeing labor shortage

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- As the housing market starts to rebound in Arizona, construction managers say they are having a hard time finding enough manpower to fill skilled worker jobs.

"Everyone thinks there are no jobs here," said Tim Snyder, President of Brewer Commercial Services. "But in the industry I'm in, we have a lot of job openings that we wish we could find skilled laborers for."

Snyder said his company has advertised two plumbing jobs in recent weeks and has had only a handful of responses.

David Jones of the Arizona Construction Association said there are a number of reasons behind the labor shortage. The biggest is that nearly 200,000 construction workers left the state at the height of the housing bust.

"The question is, will they come back in the numbers that we need to meet the appetite for construction as we see coming in the future?" Jones said.

Another factor is SB 1070, the state's controversial immigration law. Jones said it is impossible to quantify how many skilled laborers left as a result of the policy, but believes there was likely an impact.

Snyder agrees.

"It definitely had to have some impact, because we had a lot of laborers that probably were intimidated or scared about the environment, and that caused them to maybe flee to other areas," Snyder said.

New construction in parts of Arizona is booming.

According to a newly released study by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, May of 2012 saw 1,330 new construction permits issued for single family homes in Maricopa and Pinal counties. That's up 85 % from May of 2011.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for construction work in Arizona is about $20 per hour.