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How an Immigration Downturn Has Contributed to the Construction-Worker Shortage

Wall Street Journal (09/21/15) Kris Hudson

The U.S. construction industry has lost more than half a million Mexican-born workers since 2007, contributing to a labor shortage that’s likely to drive up home prices, according to a report released Monday by home-building analyst John Burns Real Estate Consulting. The analysis firm examined U.S. Department of Commerce data to determine that Mexican-born construction workers in the U.S. numbered 1.32 million last year compared with 1.89 million in 2007. Burns chief executive John Burns and his firm’s demographer, Chris Porter, conclude that many of those workers who went back to Mexico during the downturn have not returned to work in the U.S. due to tighter immigration controls—both for those entering legally and those not—and comparable job opportunities in some Mexican states with improving economies.

The home-building industry increasingly has cited labor shortages among the factors deterring greater production of late. The report steers clear of suggesting any changes to immigration policy. Rather, it cites numerous data points indicating a less hospitable environment in the U.S. in recent years for Mexican migration, legal or illegal. The report cites a 67% decline in immigration to the U.S. from Mexico from 2006 to 2013. Employers’ use of the E-Verify online system for verifying employment eligibility has risen from almost nothing in 2001 to more than 27 million employment checks last year.