Lumber prices, worker shortage impacting construction industry

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- If you're in the market for a new home, expect to pay at least $25,000 more because of the price of lumber.

Coronavirus is partly to blame.

The Associated General Contractors of Milwaukee said residential construction has been booming.

But a lack of workers and the increasing prices of everything from lumber to copper wire are causing compounding problems.

Master Electrician Rian Wandschneider spent Friday running wire throughout a new home.

"It has been very busy, which is a blessing, truth be told, the problem we're having is a manpower shortage," said Wandschneider.

He said that shortage has been building for years.

"Customers are now waiting longer for us to get there, prices are now elevated," said Wandschneider.

"Every week we have to raise prices because every time I get a price from a mill it's up," said Boehm-Madisen Vice President John Kestly.

He said sheds should be full of wood waiting to be turned into cabinets. Instead, they're only 60-percent full in some cases.

"The supply lines, they're just messed up from the mill level, loggers, kiln facilities, everything," said Kestly.

He's struggling to find workers, too. The Milwaukee Area Technical College is still churning out grads, but fewer of them.

"The numbers that we were allowed in our classrooms in order to stay in line with CDC standards decreased," said Apprenticeship Director David Polk.

Polk said their numbers will rebound as the pandemic recedes, but he said more students need to be introduced to the trades earlier to solve a long-term worker shortage.

"Some of that is the new trending careers, some of that is the gig economy," said Polk.

Lumber prices set a record high this week. $1.33 per board foot, which is four times higher than a year ago.

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