Construction jobs shrink in Seattle metro area

Mar 15, 2024, 2:49 PM

Seattle housing...

Townhomes are becoming more difficult to build in Seattle. (Oran Viriyincy, Flickr Creative Commons)

(Oran Viriyincy, Flickr Creative Commons)

Construction jobs shrunk by 4% last year in the Seattle metro area, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

There were 4,600 fewer jobs from Jan. 2023 to Jan. 2024 than the year before.

“As affordability continues to be a challenge to home ownership in the region, staying close to where one works and cutting down commuting costs is attractive to buyers,” said Vice-President of Sales for Toll Brothers, Brian Wulfestieg, as reported by Seattle Agent Magazine.  “These communities often include pocket parks, open space and thoughtfully planned common areas. This is attractive for many buyers who are looking for a sense of community.”

Survey: Washingtonians ‘unhappy’ with the lack of affordable housing

Wulfestieg said he would expect buyers to seek out more traditional single-family communities offering access to schools and amenities.

Seattle’s housing production sets new record

In contrast, Seattle’s housing production set a new record in 2023, producing 12,853 new homes, according to data from the City of Seattle. This is the most homes built since at least 2005.

However, there are still concerning trends. During the summer of 2021, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS), a regional trade group, suggested a dire future for townhomes in Seattle.

MBAKS identified Seattle Mandatory Housing Affordability program fees as a primary culprit.

“Unfortunately, the SMHA fees are severely limiting new townhomes — a lower-cost, family-sized homeownership option,” MBAKS said in an article from the Urbanist.

Since the program was instituted, townhome permit applications have dropped by nearly 70%.

New York City led the nation with a loss of 7,000 construction jobs. Regionally, Portland was down by 4,900.

Other housing news: A housing shortage is testing Oregon’s pioneering land use law. Lawmakers are poised to tweak it

There is some good news in Washington. Boom towns include Wenatchee, which added 800 jobs. That’s a 27% increase.

Nationally, Phoenix added 10,900 jobs as housing continues to explode in that area.

Association officials accused the Biden administration of making it harder for the construction industry to prepare future workers. They said the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed National Apprenticeship System Enhancements rule would restrict the industry’s ability to create new registered apprenticeship training programs, which it said offers one of the most effective ways to train future workers.

“Everyone in the industry understands that we need an all-of-the-above approach to preparing future workers,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Yet this administration is proposing rules that narrow, instead of expand, opportunities to train future construction professionals.”

Bill Kaczaraba is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here. Follow Bill on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here

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Construction jobs shrink in Seattle metro area