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Subject: Re: Labor shortages: How to fix


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Message Thread:

Labor shortages: How to fix


The Woodweb has had a lot of articles in the last year about a shortage of cabinetmakers. The Wall Street Journal has been writing about this as well.

The lead article in today's WSJ discusses America's growing labor shortage. In particular they talk about the impacts of construction projects on available labor and how a lack of available labor impacts construction.

The Keystone Pipeline will suck up a lot of the available labor. Building a wall to protect us from Mexico will compete for the remaining available workers.

According to the article more firms identified worker shortages as a bigger concern (55%) than any other issue including federal regulations (41%).

There are a lot of projects not receiving funding because the banks don't think they can staff the project to completion. In the farm sector this is impacting low skilled labor because producers are responding to the staffing shortages by shifting to higher-value crops that require less labor. Imported frozen vegetables are replacing fresh vegetables on the dinner table.

The average age of construction equipment operators and highway maintenance workers is 46. When these middle aged workers retire there is not a group identified to replace them.

I don't have an opinion about the pipeline. I can see both sides to that one. The wall to protect us from Mexico, however, seems to just be a gift to the people who own construction companies.

If you want to eliminate hispanic people from coming to our country to compete for jobs jobs you can simply make it painful to employ them.

Keeping drugs illegal doesn't (obviously) impact drug use but it does have the positive impact of keeping drug interdiction profitable. This is good for law enforcement unions and private prisons. Gangsters don't want drugs to be legalized either because their profits are also keyed to the current laws.

A big part of the problem is a mismatch of skills to opportunities. It seems like a realignment of priorities is needed. We should take the funds expended building the wall and use them to train cabinetmakers and backhoe operators. We could use those cabinetmakers to build fireplace mantles to display those ebay treasures. If there is any money left we could use it to rebuild our bridges and highways. We don't need the wall. We need better bridges.

We should take the money we gift to the drug interdiction people (and the gangsters) and create better mental health systems and drug rehabilitation programs. We could really make America great again if we would just keep our eye on the ball.

Step 1: Term Limits

3/31/17       #2: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
james e mcgrew Member

Website: mcgrewwoodwork.com

Brave but true Post, i have fought local school systems to no result for closing down and defunding industrial trades education, Basically after ten years I am wore out on the subject. in the 90's there were memos from trade organizations and magazine articles telling us as trade craft to learn to speak spanish, it was to be our labor pool. now we done gone and kicked hem out without ever fixing the situation. not sure what the fix is but your post is timely. I have hired many of the older talented guys locally yes they cost more, had to send a great kid packing this week, he wanted to cry when told he was gone for a month to see if he could fugure out why he cannot just smoke a little pot and then drive our trucks or sit at his bench with his head bobbing in headphones while taking his sweet time assembling work.

3/31/17       #3: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Pat Gilbert

Ehem, the labor shortage will magically disappear when wages increase.

In woodworking that is not going to happen because it is easier to automate.

In the rest of the trades it is going to happen writ large.

As to the drug problem the answer is legalize it.

The wall is a waste of money, immigration is way down.

It would be nice if the immigrants of both stripes weren't subsidized also.

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3/31/17       #4: Labor shortages: How to fix ...


In the same article, according to the Western Growers Association,"boosting wages and benefits - many employers pay $15 an hour with 401(k)s and paid vacation - has been little help. Instead, employers are cannibalizing one another's farms. In 2015 the country's largest lemon grower Limoneira raised wages to $16 per hour, boosted retirement benefits by 20% and offered subsidized housing. But now vineyards in Napa are poaching workers from growers in California's Central Valley by paying even more."

It's not a case of wage imbalance it's more that the unemployed citizens in our country don't want to pick fruit. I don't blame them.

The solution is education. We need to be taking the money we squander on soundbite legislation and apply it to where it is needed. The wall is just something to rally the troops around, like having tinfoil drives in World War 2.

Right now we actually have a chance for conservatism to take root. The House, Senate & Executive branch are all Republicans. They ran for seven years on a platform of abolishing Obamacare yet when they finally had the chance ducked out. It was a really simple proposition to vote 70 times to repeal the law when they knew it would be vetoed. When it came time to take a public vote Ryan punted.

Instead of actually giving us limited government the REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED congress yesterday passed a bill allowing Comcast to sell our internet browsing history to the highest bidder. If Trump signs this then every single page, video or email you have ever perused is available for sale. To anybody.

Maybe some of the freedom & liberty loving members of this forum can explain this better than I can. There must be a reason for it.

3/31/17       #5: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
james e mcgrew Member

Website: mcgrewwoodwork.com

We offer xx to start and much higher for experience. it is not the money !!

3/31/17       #6: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Alan F.

Well we could allow skilled legal immigrants from Europe or eastern Europe.

Its very difficult to get a visa for a skilled person from Europe. Why not allow skilled workers that are trained come to this country? What's the magic of being able to walk across the southern border that makes for better labor pool?

We have had 6 or 7 employees from Europe over the years that we got visas for.

We aren't far from automatic framing systems that can follow and laser layout for tin can framing in offices right behind that a robot to put drywall up.

It used to be hard to find warm bodies, now its hard to find dead bodies to staff positions.


3/31/17       #7: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
james e mcgrew Member

Website: mcgrewwoodwork.com

The southern border walkers at least for us , worked hard, did a good job were at work on time and far smarter with their money, until 08 when the last of them went home paid taxes and asked little of it,

again at least here.

3/31/17       #8: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Paul Downs

@ cabmaker: I'm puzzled that you are wishing for smaller government then in the same paragraph asking for controls on what private business can do with data that they generate from their paying customers. A small government stays out of stuff like that, and business gets to do whatever it wants.

3/31/17       #9: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
pat gilbert


You're right this has more to do with demographics than anything else. There simply aren't enough people in the economy at the moment, soon to change. See the dip in this chart, that is the problem.

Regardless if the pay goes high enough you WILL get workers.

I don't have a problem with immigration, only the public transfers are ridiculous.

We should PICK the immigrants that are permitted into the country. I.E. pick the ones who contribute to the economy.

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3/31/17       #10: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Alan F.

That's what legal immigration is supposed to do, illegal skilled workers would be kept out the same as skilled workers out of Europe so that's the law that needs to change. encourage people that can help the country and have skills we need.

The argument that citizens won't clean toilets or pick crops is false, they won't do it for poor wages.


3/31/17       #11: Labor shortages: How to fix ...


There is also a quality of life issue.

As the price of fresh vegetables increases we will start to import more and more frozen ones. I like fresh tomatoes. I like them year round.

I don't want to eat frozen tomatoes.

If we keep the trade barriers down our farmers can ship to Mexico and they can ship fresh habanero peppers to us. This is win-win stuff.

What do you think the REPUBLICAN controlled congress will do with trade barriers?

They were perfectly happy to sell out our internet browser history to the highest bidder. Do you think they will make the right decision regarding trade?

3/31/17       #12: Labor shortages: How to fix ...

What I mean by highest bidder, of course, is the people who make the biggest campaign contributions.

If you ever want to understand the motivation behind anything, just follow the money.

3/31/17       #13: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Gary B.

As we all know, this isn't a new problem. But, I think it's eye opening to see how old this problem really is. I was given an old stack of magazines lately. In it, I found a November 1978 issue of Fine Woodworking. Within it, there is an article by Tage Frid, describing his apprenticeship in our trade in Denmark. Even back then, he and others were lamenting about the lack of training here in the states for highly skilled positions.

Some direct quotes from the article:
"Yet there is a great need for highly skilled craftsmen, but for people who enjoy and are proud of making a beautiful thing even if they did not design it themselves. There are very few places today where a person can learn a skilled trade."

This was nearly 40 years ago!

I've seen other references to this topic dating back to the 1930's. It seems as the focus was put on machinery and not the craftsmen, our trade's training, and consequently, the skilled labor pool started diminishing.

There was a time when cutting a well fit tenon with only a handsaw wasn't an exquisite skill, it was necessary and expected. There was an procedure and a skill set involved that the craftsman was taught and expected to master. The same should be taught to craftsmen with the tools, materials and software of today.

Historically, the apprenticeship programs made a lot of sense. I'm not sure what the answer is today. But one things for sure, the schools aren't going to put out enough good woodworkers to save this craft. Unless we had 500 more teachers like Mark Smith (https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-smith-09958290)

3/31/17       #14: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Alan F.

Every major downturn weeds out the non "A" employees, some move to other shops but some change professions and move to jobs that are more recession proof.

This adds to the problem as anyone that was trained for a couple of years, lost their job in 08 or 09 and went somewhere else isn't there today. They have moved on and there were no replacements being groomed.

The cyclical nature of our work leads the marginal employees that aren't retained to go to another job so they can take care of their family.


3/31/17       #15: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Pat Gilbert

I was talking to a shop in NYC back in the early 80s about some job details.

I asked him if he had trouble finding skilled employees, he replied no problem at all they don't exist.

He said in the past they got skilled people from Germany, and they would then train the Americans. But for whatever reason they quit coming over and that was the end of that.

Point being we need people who contribute to the economy, we don't need people who live on public transfers.

In today's market place customers don't value hand crafted or skilled workmanship. Ergo the automation. They don't prize horse drawn carriages either.

3/31/17       #16: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Family Man

Labor shortage is a good thing. It means labor will be valued and prices for it will rise.

3/31/17       #17: Labor shortages: How to fix ...


If you take a very simplistic view of the problem your solution is an obvious one. On planet earth, however, we have some real life parameters.

Most of the jobs that are available are going to need job specific training. You can wave all the money you want at an employee but if he doesn't have the skills he can't and won't get the job done for any rate of pay.

The jobs also need to be in proximity with where people live. Children need structure and stable home environments. The worker cannot just follow the crop and car camp.

What would be your answer if you had to crank reality into the formula?

Trump just opened up more land for coal leases. It was also a very simplistic solution that provided a great TV soundbite. Do you think this is going to create any employment for coal miners?

3/31/17       #18: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Family Man

People learn to do what they have to do to survive. Quite literally if you wave enough money at someone they will learn what they have to do to get the job done. It's why people go...well coal mining. Compared to that cabinetmaking is easy.

There is a movement starting among people going back to working with your hands and away from college.

Yes, some project won't be built- and that is okay. It means those folks either did not have the money and didn't go into debt- a good thing- or they learned out of necessity to do the job themselves. Also a good thing.

There is mostly positives in this and yes it is simple. Most folks won't have to move, but those who do- other sacrifices would of had to be made in place of this one if it was not this one. There is no utopia where the government solves our problems. There is hard work, and if done among honest people in a free market it is rewarded- but sacrifices come first.

As far as coal mining, it is not my part of the country and I don't know enough about it to know the effects of what was passed and how it will play out. I hope it increases coal mining but just don't know enough about it to say one way or the other. I know that when the government eases regulation on the mining done in my area, mining increases in earnest. I suspect the same will happen but it is just a guess.

4/3/17       #19: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Matt Peterson

You can believe there is a labor shortage if you want. However, I believe there is a shortage of good paying projects.
I bill out at $265/hour. If someone offered me $250/hour, I would walk away from the stress and go to work for them. For $350 I would even move to a new location. (Well, maybe it would take $400 if I had to shovel snow.)
I get a call every month from very skilled people looking for work. All of them own their own shops on the East-coast. So obviously the amount customers on the East-coast are willing to pay for antique restoration is less then people in my area are willing to pay.
When I do the math on adding the square footage to the shop to take on more help, I just do not see it working out. There is more work in my area then workers. However, there is not enough extra work to justify the cost of work space.
I would much rather there was extra work in my area then extra labor. When I started there was extra labor and I competed with five other shop. Now I am competing with one and we both specialize in different work. There is always the guy that does not have the skill set or tools working out of the back of a pick-up. But until I stop repairing their work, for a good price, I do not consider them in the game.
If you think that there is a shortage of labor, please raise your prices. It will help our industry. When the industry price gets to a big enough number, there will no longer be a shortage in labor.

4/3/17       #20: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Alan F.


If we raise our prices, competition comes in from out of state where OH and costs are less.


4/3/17       #21: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Pat Gilbert

Or out of country.

The simple fact is that the economy is always a race to the bottom.

If you throw in demographics and government malfeasance and an increase in productivity the last 10 years have been a perfect storm for this industry.

Unless you are big enough to take advantage of big jobs that have sprung up because of low interest rates or home owner jobs that remodel for the same reason.

4/3/17       #22: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Matt Peterson

And there it is, proof of supply and demand. No labor shortage. Just a want of employees that will work with wood instead of computers, tractors, sewing needles or whatever pays more.

4/3/17       #23: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Pat Gilbert


This is the main reason the demand is off.

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4/3/17       #24: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Family Man

Pat, out of all the graphs you have ever posted that may be the best. That really puts things in perspective.

There are real hot spots and real cool spots in both the economy & housing market- it's geographic and it's how close you are to the tit of the Fed and eight years of free money.

Those directly attached and one step removed are thriving-and if you can feed directly off either you are doing real well. After that it's slim pickings and hard times.

4/3/17       #25: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Pat Gilbert

Yup overall that is the main one.

You're right about being close to the to the source of the money. See the article below, from Tim's favorite source.

Some areas are flat some are not. It seems to me that the areas that were inflated the most in 08 have taken the longest to recover.

Demographics are a factor as well.

Also in So Cal and NYC a lot people are moving out of the area because of cost.

WSJ on being close to the tit

4/3/17       #26: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Family Man

That article only speaks to those hanging on to the very hind tit- government bureaucrats and 20 year lifetime pension civil "servants". While for the most part only 1/3 of them are needed and are a leech to productivity, the front tit is the bankers and wealthy making money over the only place QE has worked- inflating the stock market & VC markets- which leads to super hot areas, which even in today's society, is clustered geographically to the financial and tech areas- and their playgrounds.

Other areas though are struggling mightily. Which is why different view points spring up- we are both looking at our own reality. Both true in their own right.

In other words, if you had money it's a whole lot easier to make money with the fed (and deep state) driving, in fact it's almost impossible not to in this environment. If you didn't have money you have to find a way to attach directly onto those that do- one step away from that and it really doesn't matter how hard you work it's hard to break even let alone get ahead in the good ole US of A.

What separates many of us is not just our view of how problems should be solved (the role of government) but our faith in it's financial system. Which dictates what we believe the possible outcomes could even be.

I'm of the belief that it's a "dump truck load of nitro glycerin on a very bumpy road" and am under the belief that sooner or later physics, science and economics will produce a very large BOOM.

Demographics won't keep that from happening in my opinion. The weight of the snow ball of debt rolling down hill has already begun to grow upon itself to point it cannot be stopped outside of a RESET on it's own- so it's a RESET either way.

The problem is the banks (and corporations) and the government are so intertwined and in bed with each other- feeding each other at the expense of all else and everyone else.

4/3/17       #27: Labor shortages: How to fix ...


You have this wrong. My favorite newspaper is the New York Times. I read the Wall Street Journal from cover to cover daily because I think it is important to get your news from sources that you don't necessarily agree with.

I also touch base daily with Reuters & The Economist. Every now and then I go to Breitbart.Com.

The problem with the internet today is that they produce strictly silos of information. All you have to do is find someone you agree with and go there for solace and companionship. As I have mentioned before, I am particularly influenced by the left-handed-clarinet playing- transgender- fly fishing- cabinetmaker forum. (It has a tiny reach but is influential nonetheless).

People who only get their information from one source are easily duped. This is how, for example, the Trump crowd actually thinks building a Wall between us and our important trading neighbors will somehow make us safer and more prosperous.

If we want to become more prosperous we need to repurpose all that concrete, rebar & payroll to re-building our nations highway & bridges.

We need to repurpose all the money gifted to the drug interdiction industry to providing free drugs to those who want them and/or rehabilitation for those who would rather have that.

The threat of mexicans coming to steal our jobs can be addressed by simply deporting employers who hire undocumented workers. I would say to deport them to Mexico but Russia has a demonstrated efficiency in working with these miscreants. We can even fill up their suitcases with styrofoam and get a twofer.

Al-Queda and Isis have no known presence in Mexico. The only terrorism they export is gangsterism funded by illegal drugs. Cut off the money and you will cut off the gangsterism.

The Trump crowd, however, is easier influenced by optics. A great big shiny wall makes for great optics but nothing else.

4/3/17       #28: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Family Man


First, and sorry if this is too personal, what's with the transgender thing? You've referenced that a couple times in people who you jokingly listen to because they are "like you." You're obviously a cabinetmaker. Being from a fishing community I can see you being a fisherman. I believe you have stated you are left handed.

On the wall- I agree with you about punishing those who hire illegals. But that doesn't stop a radical jihadist from coming across. Both can be done. Both need to be done. Good fences make good neighbors- almost universally excepted as truth- but somehow goes out the window in your reasoning about this country.

Do you know what Mexico's own immigration standards and punishments are? Why do you think it is bad of us to match almost every single North or South American countries rules/enforcement on national borders? If it's good for them, why can't it be good for us?

And because you are the OP and we want to stay in WW's good graces are you good with us wandering down a few rabbit holes and tangents off the original post?

4/3/17       #29: Labor shortages: How to fix ...


I have no problems with any contributions going down a rabbit hole. At the end of the thread these rabbit holes are usually connected or at least I try to make mine connected.

The wall is ridiculous. You can't complain about massive government debt on the one hand and then agree we should squander it on the other.

Hypothetically you are correct. An islamic sleeper cell in Honduras could hypothetically broach our borders and do us harm. The Oklahoma bomber, however, is a home grown terrorist. We have more to fear from White Supremacy groups than Al-Qaeda in Tijuana. I don't, however, hear any clamor to build a wall around Ohio or even Canada.

We need to stop squandering our money on campaign optics. The concrete and rebar (and long term debt) we invest in a wall that separates us from our trading partners would needs to be invested in our bridges and highways. We can't afford both.

You ignored the nuances of the clarinet playing faction of flyfishing, left handed, transgendered cabinet makers. It's hard to be a left handed clarinet player. Nobody gives us credit for this. We are a hard scrabble group that just learned to buck up and play left handed. We should serve as morally uplifting influence and be feted as such. I am not sure about the transgendered part just yet but I am looking into it. After Bruce Jenner became loud & proud it put me in touch with my inner lesbian. I used to just think these feeling overcame me because I was weaned to young. I now realize that it is important to embrace all points of view.

4/3/17       #30: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Family Man

I believe you think we have more to fear from that group, but the nation on a whole does not believe as you do. Neither do the stats back up your claim in actual lives taken. Can you agree on that?

Your last paragraph is almost as hard to understand and comprehend as is your political beliefs for this back country fellow. We literally live in two different worlds.

I will be in your general area tomorrow. I have a lot going on, but if you are open to it I'd be glad to buy coffee if you can meet find a time and place that will work, just so we can both see we aren't quite as bad as the other seems to portray online!

Of course if no one from Woodweb hears from one or the other after tomorrow send out the search party!

4/3/17       #31: Labor shortages: How to fix ...

Family Man,

Why would you be coming to Sin-City?
I thought you hillbillies were self-sufficient?

4/3/17       #32: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Family Man

You'd be surprised to know that there are deep cover hill billies in your city that love working with other hill billies. And they literally beg us to come do their cabinets no matter how many times we try to get away from doing it. So we get in and we get out, fast, and back to sanity.

4/3/17       #33: Labor shortages: How to fix ...

So you guys are just a whore like the rest of us and all this posturing is just haggling over price?

4/6/17       #34: Labor shortages: How to fix ...
Pat Gilbert

This is apt.

This is apt


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