After the fire: California faces shortage of construction workers to rebuild homes

Northern Californians whose homes have been burned down by wildfires in the scorching summer may find it difficult to rebuild owing to the state’s growing shortage of construction workers.

A study released this week by Buildzoom, a website that helps property owners find trustworthy contractors, found that the state has lost about 20% of its construction industry workforce between 2005 and 2016.

What is more, some 40% of construction job postings in the state remain unfilled for at least six weeks, according to the study, the third longest wait in the US after Maine and New Jersey.

The Mercury News, a San José-based daily, reports that the shortage of workers has increased prices and delays in rebuilding for more than 1,000 homes destroyed in fires, which have also killed six people, including two fire fighters, and devastated an area four times the size of San Francisco.

A Cal Fire map of active (red) fires on 3 August 2018. The grey fire is "contained"

The 1,018 homes, 12 businesses and 435 other buildings that have been confirmed as destroyed place the blaze sixth on the state’s list of most destructive fires, although not on the same scale as the Wine Country fires of October 2017, which consumed about 9,000 homes.

According to Buildzoom, the fall in the industry workforce reflects a reluctance among school leavers to take jobs in construction.

California’s share of construction workers under the age of 25 decreased by about 45% between 2005 and 2016.

Issi Romem, chief economist at Buildzoom, told the Mercury: "It’s hard, physical work. People are more inclined to go after a college degree and white collar jobs."

Top image: A satellite image of the Wine Country Fires of October 2017 (European Space Agency)

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