The Wall Street Journal's Kris Hudson looks at how the ongoing labor crisis is starting to eat into the results of the nation's biggest public builders.

Yesterday, in announcing its third-quarter earnings, Pulte blamed its 6% drop in sales to a lack of workers, though analysts had expected more. M/I Homes, for its part, posted a 1% gain in deliveries, though analysts, again, had expected more.

“In general, labor is the primary culprit of our lower conversion” of sales to closed deals, PulteGroup chief executive Richard Dugas said Thursday on a conference call with investors. “It’s clearly impacting our production. In general, we have to pay more for labor.”

Many posit that contractors and builders need to pay tradesmen such as carpenters, masons and tile setters more to lure them back to construction ...  residential construction workers were paid, on average, 14% more than the overall U.S. average wage in 1990. By last year, that premium had shrunk to 4%.

“Wage rates in general have not been moving very fast for all types of work,” said David Crowe, chief economist for the builders association. “But the fact that they’ve lost some of their advantage in residential construction may be one of the reasons it’s hard to attract people back into the industry.”

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