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Construction Worker Shortage Increasing Cost For New Homes In Chicago Area

(CBS) -- New home construction is finally picking up in Chicago, but so are the prices.

That's partly because of a serious shortage of skilled construction workers.

In this Original Report, Derrick Blakley found higher labor costs are hitting new home buyers right in the wallet.

Chicago area home buyers are back, especially in the luxury new home market, but they're paying more because a shortage of construction workers is pushing up wages.

Daniel Danko of the Danko Group Corporation says it is pushing up the prices of homes by "about 10 to 15 percent."

Electricians, plumbers, carpenters and heating-cooling specialists all in short supply and tradesmen like Kamil Trajgiel are reaping the benefits. Trajgiel says his wages have gone up by about 30 percent.

A much bigger pay hike than most white-collar professionals have seen. The reason? Lots of tradesmen got out when the downturn hit. Many Eastern European immigrants returned to Europe where they can now work anywhere due to the common market.

"England, France, Italy, you name it and you're freely legal. You're not an immigrant anymore. The market is all open," said Danko.

Some estimates indicated the construction workforce has shrunk by 25 per cent in the last seven years with a national shortfall of one-and-a half million workers. That leaves immigrants who stuck it out are catching the windfall.

"I think so because wherever you go now, you see a lot of buildings going, a lot of construction," said Marcin Klepacki, a heating-cooling installer.

Some of the other factors behind the shortage: Many baby boomers in the construction industry are retiring and many young Americans don't seem much interested in working construction.

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