As the housing boom kicks into gear, as many as six trades within the home building sector in Australia are in national shortage, a new report warns.
Published by Housing Industry Association, the HIA Trades Report indicates that moderate shortages of availability had emerged within a number of trades with heavy exposure to the housing side of the industry, including bricklaying, ceramic tiling, plastering, roofing, carpentry and ‘other trades’.
While wages and rates overall remain stable, the emerging shortages have placed some upward pricing pressure on specific trades, with trade rates for bricklaying, site preparation, ceramic tiling and general building having risen by more than five percent over the past year.
The situation contrasts with that experienced as recently as the September quarter of 2012, when slumping residential and commercial building activity saw an oversupply registered in all trades except for plumbing and site preparation.
Overall, however, the supply of and demand for tradespeople remains roughly in balance, with the shortages in many trades being offset by moderate levels of oversupply in landscaping, general building, electrical, plumbing, site preparation, painting and joinery.
The latest results follow a more general construction industry survey conducted by the Master Builders Association in July, which found that labour had become somewhat more difficult to source in recent quarters, albeit with overall levels of difficulty in securing employees and subcontractors remaining moderate.
According to that survey, bricklayers were the most in demand, followed by site managers, wall and floor tilers, project managers, foremen/supervisors, roof tilers, plaster fixers and carpenters.
Behind all this lies increasing demand for labour amid the recent upturn in home building activity. ABS figures suggest the number of people employed in the industry (1.029 million – seasonally adjusted) has swelled by around 43,600 over the past 12 months as a whopping 193,667 houses were approved for construction in a nation which has seen more than 180,000 homes built in a year only once in the past 30 years.
Housing Industry Association senior economist Shane Garrett said the demand for tradespeople reflects the current strength of the housing market and supply pressures are emerging most significantly in areas which had limited exposure to the resource sector and do not have significant volumes of workers returning from the mines.
“What we are seeing is the fact that building activity is so strong in terms of new dwellings are so strong plus the renovation side of the market is starting to lift a bit as well,” he said.
Thus far, however, such demand is yet to lead to significant upward pressure on construction industry wages and trade rates, which have raised by three per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively, according to HIA and ABS data.
Garrett does not expect any form of mass labour shortage in the medium term, especially as home building activity eases back from current highs and more people are trained and upskilled.
“I think once that comes through a bit more fully then supply pressures will ease back a little bit,” he said. “I think there are enough people in the medium term to meet the needs of the residential construction sector.”
In terms of regions, HIA’s Trades Report suggests shortages of tradespeople exist primarily in regional areas of SA, NSW and WA as well as Perth and Sydney, whereas a moderate oversupply exists in regional Queensland.