Survey says …

In recently released research, the Brookings Institution shows the unemployment rate is startlingly high among low-income men.

According to the research, reported on, men between 25 and 54 years of age and earning about $12 per hour comprise 69 percent of the workforce. In contrast, in 1980, this same group had an employment rate of 80 percent.

The Brookings Institution provided a variety of reasons for the decrease in employment among low-income men (the study excluded individuals who qualify for federal disability programs).

According to Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, current available jobs require more education and skills than these men typically have, many of whom are black and/or Hispanic without college degrees.

Sawhill states: "[The research] seems to reflect that the economy no longer has many jobs or decent-paying jobs for this set of men."

I think we can agree she likely didn't consider the roofing industry in her research. Although it may be true these men comprise a disproportionate chunk of the unemployment rolls, there are jobs out there—it's simply a matter of getting the men to realize roofing—or any trade—is a viable option.

This month, NRCA Vice President of NRCA University Amy Staska writes about a survey NRCA conducted to find out why roofing workers joined the industry and why they stay.

In "Lessons from the field," Staska explains the reasons vary about why people gravitate toward a career in roofing, but the most important factors for retaining employees long-term are providing them with training opportunities and making them feel welcome during their first days on the job. And happy employees make excellent sources of referrals for potential new hires.

According to the NRCA survey, a whopping 78 percent of English-speaking workers found their roofing jobs from a roofing worker's referral. The number is even higher among Spanish-speaking employees—91 percent.

The NRCA survey is a bright note among otherwise dismal workforce and unemployment reports. If anything, the survey shows roofing workers employed by good companies are more than happy to be a part of this dynamic industry.

Ambika Puniani Bailey is editor of Professional Roofing and NRCA's vice president of communications and production.


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