Youths Reject Construction Jobs

(p. A3) The construction business is having trouble attracting young job seekers.
The share of workers in the sector who are 24 years old or younger has declined in 48 states since the last housing boom in 2005, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Issi Romem, chief economist at construction data firm BuildZoom. Nationally, the share of young construction workers declined nearly 30% from 2005 through 2016, according to Mr. Romem.
While there’s no single reason why younger folks are losing interest in a job that is generally well-paid and doesn’t require a college education, their indifference is exacerbating a labor shortage that has meant fewer homes being built and rising prices, possibly for years to come.

For the full story, see:
Laura Kusisto. “Youths Shrug at Construction Jobs.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018): A3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 31, 2018, and has the title “Young People Don’t Want Construction Jobs. That’s a Problem for the Housing Market.”)

One thought on “Youths Reject Construction Jobs”

  1. Probably this should be unsurprising for a number of reasons, even going beyond the article.

    Today’s zeitgeist, of course, tells us that everyone should become a Web designer living four to a tiny dorm room in a skyscraper in grossly overpopulated urban California. As if most tech products haven’t been fully mature for years or even decades, with updates mainly confined to befuddling customers with never-ending capricious changes to the functions of device or software controls (e.g. quick, how exactly do you summon up the “home screen” this week? Or is said screen now a wholly inscrutable tri-level icon-menu?)

    So, what use are more techies? But even if there are better things to do, many such things “don’t get no respect” amidst the STEM panic.

    Then there’s the seasonal aspect. The great majority of construction – homes and otherwise – seems to be done, these days, in the torrid (and ever-rising, especially in paved-over urban areas) heat of high summer. This is not completely new, but, well, air-conditioning has been widespread for decades now. There’s no longer much need or desire to go outside to escape the even worse heat inside buildings and houses. Even poor-ish countries like China are rapidly acquiring A/C.

    Now, once central heat became widespread, people stayed inside to escape the freezing, dark depths of winter. That is a trope, for example, with Christie’s Hercule Poirot, derided as a “dandy” by his presumably more manly fictional contemporaries, for disliking cold, chilly old English houses lacking proper heat. And indeed, rather little outdoor construction goes on in the north in January.

    Given that, why wouldn’t sensible people now also want to stay inside during the blistering heat of high summer? Certainly, there are many ways to earn a living without torturing oneself in a furnace. (And, ignore all the caterwauling, why wouldn’t sensible kids want to play video games in a nice comfortable living room instead of parboiling miserably outside?)

    At the end of the day, construction – i.e. working under awful conditions few humans wish to tolerate any longer – seems like a great opportunity for robotics. Alas, what is hyped as “artificial intelligence” (AI) is usually nothing of the kind, or else is so ultra-narrowly specialized (think chess or go) as to be of little or no broad use. Nonetheless, a great deal of robotics can be built already without true AI, and such AI will eventually arrive too.

    So why isn’t more robotics used? Why isn’t more outdoor construction shifted away from high summer, as it is from the worst of winter, i.e. to spring and fall? Why isn’t there tremendously more factory prefabrication? Why do so many construction sites – buildings and highways – still look, despite the use of diesel engines and such, so very nineteenth-century?

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