Mexican Immigrant Workers Have Dramatically Declined
Dallas home prices are climbing rapidly, and homebuilders are complaining about labor shortages and soaring wages for construction workers. But something else makes this housing boom different from others: Immigrants aren’t riding to the rescue. For decades, Mexicans and other foreign-born workers have been coming to Texas to build homes, apartments and office towers. By one estimate, they fill almost half the construction jobs in the state, which is about twice as many as in the rest of the nation. That total includes legal and unauthorized immigrants. In the construction industry, both groups are roughly the same size in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. Texas has been a job magnet for immigrants because of close ties with Mexico and the amount of work available. But the flow of people has slowed significantly -- first, as a result of the housing bust and deep recession, and more recently with the focus on immigration laws and border security.
“We’ve been very reliant on these workers since the late ‘70s,” said Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “But the age of cheap labor in the U.S. is over.” It’s not just the anti-immigrant stance pushed by lawmakers and President Donald Trump. After the recession, Mexico’s economy recovered faster so many Mexicans who had left never came back. The demographics in Mexico also have changed, with more dual-earning households and fewer young people. Since the recession, more Mexicans have departed the U.S. than have moved to this country, Pew reported. In the Dallas area, just over 81,000 worked in the construction trades in February, according to government data. To fill current demand in the business, the industry needs up to 99,000 workers -- not years in the future, right now.
- Dallas Morning News, April 24, 2017