Tradie shortage looms

The short supply of tradesmen, despite a slump in home building, points to a crisis when the sector eventually recovers, according to a report released today.

The net shortage of skilled tradespeople barely improved in the March quarter, rising to -0.05 from -0.06 in the December quarter, according the Housing Industry Association-Austral Bricks trade report.

-If skilled labour can’t move into surplus in a year when home building starts will fall by nearly 20%, then the industry will very quickly face acute trade shortages once a sustained recovery emerges, the HIA said in a statement.

The grim assessment of builders’ availability comes half a year after the Government doubled the first home buyers grant in an effort to help the sector, adding more demand for skilled builders.

In Victoria, the Black Saturday bushfires that destroyed a 750 homes have added to the strain on the construction sector.

However, the report picked up a drop in prices, reflecting the generally weaker conditions for the industry.

-Reinforcing the general weakness in new construction activity, trade contractor prices fell for only the second time in the report’s history, HIA said, marking a 3.1% quarterly price decline, or a 0.7% drop for the year to the end of March.

Brisbane, where home prices had shot up along with the once-booming resources economy, experienced the biggest quarterly drop in prices of 3.9%, while fire-ravaged regional Victoria, dipped 0.7% in the quarter.

On an annual basis, Perth and Melbourne were tied for having the sharpest price rises, with both cities posting a 5.8% increase in the cost of tradespeople.

The report is compiled quarterly from a sample survey of HIA trade subcontractor members

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