Ask any contractor who walks into your store about their biggest projected setbacks in 2019, and you’re likely to hear one of two phrases: “high tariffs,” or, perhaps more commonly, “labor shortage.” The work is there, but the people aren’t. Here’s what you need to know about the most pressing issue in the construction industry this year.

A recent Harvard study cites an increase in remodeling spending as a contributor to the labor shortage. A strong economy and growing job market are factors in this spending rise, as is the boom in housing values.1 A remodeling surge is, of course, great news for the industry as a whole, and 2018 saw it reach an all-time high in America.2

Unfortunately, it comes at a time when a large concentration of older laborers have begun to age out of the workforce, with few young workers to replace them. High-school graduates have shunned manual labor jobs in favor of the less certain, and far more expensive, college route.2

Meanwhile, contractors are forced to raise their wages to lure in skilled workers, or to hang onto them.3 To compensate, they’re cutting materials costs and labor time wherever they can. Your customers will be looking for any product that can save them time on the job site. If you were waiting for an opportunity to move more kits and premanufactured products, this is it.

HB&G® columns are a perfect example. They come premanufactured and require very little on-site assembly before a quick installation. A pergola kit from HB&G turns a two-day job into a 5-hour job. Painted or stained entry doors, such as Factory Finish doors from Huttig, can save time and money. Just order the doors in the color the homeowner chooses and install them.

Safety is another major concern of the labor shortage. Fewer people, by necessity, must work faster and this can lead to cutting corners with safety standards.4 You might take this opportunity to sell more products with advanced safety features, or that require simpler installation.

For example, most underlayment products from FT Synthetics® feature their Gripspot texture technology, which improves traction underfoot for roofers who might have to work fast in wet or frosty weather. EcoBatt® and EcoRoll® by Knauf Insulation are less abrasive to skin than conventional fiberglass, so there’s less risk of irritation under a tight deadline.

You can even offer a time savings in the purchasing process. Since Huttig® offers such a broad range of products, you can turn your store into a one-stop shop, saving contractors or their transporters a drive across town. This is a great time to offer bundles of related products or price match your competitors.

This labor shortage won’t last forever. The aforementioned Harvard study predicts that the remodeling market will begin to plateau and normalize by mid-2019, perhaps giving the labor force a little time to catch up.

According to the essential 2019 Dodge Construction Outlook, new construction will also begin to level off, settling at $808 billion, compared to $807 billion in 2018. This is a tiny increase compared to the differences between previous recent years, like 2012-2015, which saw increases as high as 14 percent.5 That boom likely also played a big role in the labor shortage as we see it today.  

As the national labor shortage continues, count on Huttig for innovative materials that save labor on the jobsite without compromising quality or long-term durability.

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Dealers Edge in | March 01, 2019